Attracting Beneficial Insects to Your Garden


aphid beetle memories of mona cosmos  

A flowering border alive and buzzing with beneficial insects can be absolutely breathtaking. Doug Tallamy’s talk "Bringing Nature Home" has reminded us how crucial flowering plants, in particular native plants, are to supporting beneficial insects in our gardens. Dr. Tallamy’s message was loud and clear: gardeners can make choices that impact the diversity of life in our yards, our towns, and our worlds.

Beneficial insects help in the garden as pollinators, as food for other beneficial insects, and by eating insect pests. Many of the predatory insects we’re familiar with in the Southeast, the hundreds of hoverflies and parasitic wasps, also serve a double role as pollinators during part of their lifecycle.

autumn beauty sunflowerbergamot with butterfly 

An easy place for vegetable gardeners to start is to put out the welcome mat for beneficial insects. First, stop spraying pesticides, even organic ones. Next, work to include year round food shelter for beneficial insects in or near your garden. Leave some leaf and plant litter on the ground over winter to improve habitat. Build insectary borders that include a variety of native plants: trees, shrubs, grasses, flowering perennials, and annuals.

Your border can work at any scale, from a small strip of plants in a city garden to a vast hedgerow between rural properties. Having the right kinds of plants in the border is what’s important. Many beneficial insects don’t have specialized mouth parts like bees, butterflies, and moths, so they need plants that have a lot of small flowers with exposed nectaries. Choose plants that are “user friendly” with blooms in clusters of small flowers rather than one large bloom, for easy access to pollen and nectar.

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