Attracting Beneficial/Predatory Insects
In bird, butterfly, and organic vegetable gardens, chemicals are often not an option if a pest problem arises. One solution is to attract or buy beneficial or predatory insects. These insects can naturally reduce pest populations. The most common example of this is buying ladybugs to control aphids. They will also eat other small insects, such as thrips, mites, and scales. Ladybugs can be purchased for much of the spring and summer at garden centers. Praying mantises will also eat a wide variety of other insects and can be purchased as eggs.
Several steps can be taken to make a garden area more attractive to predatory insects, so they are present in the first place or stick around if bought. While offering a wide variety of blooming flowers throughout the year is good for butterflies, it’s also a helpful practice for attracting predatory wasps that lay their eggs inside aphids and caterpillars.
Slightly “wilder” flowers are good for this since some of our annuals are bred only for their looks and may have little pollen or nectar. Plants grown from seeds and herbs that are allowed to bloom are a good place to start.
Beneficial insects also overwinter in gardens that aren’t “cleaned up” until it warms in the spring. Cutting down all the perennials and racking up all the leaves in the fall will take away overwintering sites. Even mulching can help beneficial beetles by giving them cover while helping the plants stay healthier. As always, remember that broad-spectrum chemicals will kill both pests and the insects that might help control them.