Your garden is teeming with life. Underneath that nice moist soil live entire colonies of creepy crawlies such as insects, spiders and worms. Some come out and munch on your precious seedlings while others prefer to munch on each other. The trick to a successful garden is to attract the beneficial insects and repel those that would destroy your plants.
While you could resort to pesticides and chemicals, it’s not always necessary. Why not put the beneficial insects to work for you? You can buy beneficial bugs at garden centers, through mail order or over the internet. Many of the beneficial insects don’t do the actual eating, rather they reproduce and their larvae offspring do the consuming.
You will also want to provide plants that attract beneficial insects and bugs such as marigolds, nasturtiums, butterfly weed, clover, coriander, dill, fennel, yarrow or wild carrot. These plants attract and provide homes for your friendly bugs.
While it’s tempting to release lots of good bugs, don’t over do it and overpopulate your garden with them. They need enough prey to eat and if there’s too much competition or not enough to eat, they will move on to someone else’s garden.
The list of beneficial insects and other critters is long and varied. Here’s just a sampling to get you started.
Lady bugs are well known among experienced gardeners. Not only are they cute, they eat aphids. Each adult lady bug can consume up to 5,000 aphids in their lifetime. In addition, the lady bug lays between three to four dozen eggs per day. Their hungry larvae then join in on the aphid feast.
A cryptolaemus beetle looks similar to a lady bug but is darker in color. These bugs immediately search out mealy bugs and gobble them up. They lay their eggs on infested plants so that their larvae feed on the mealy bugs too.
The friendly praying mantis feeds on flies, beetles and aphids among others. While they don’t eat lady bugs, they do occasionally eat other beneficial insects if there are not enough pests available so try not to overpopulate. Purchase praying mantis egg casings and set them out in shrubs around the garden. It takes about two weeks for them to hatch.
Have mite problems either outside or inside the house? Predator mites can be used indoors or outdoors to control spider mites by gobbling up 1 to 3 adult mites or 6 mite eggs per day.
Stink bugs, or the spined soldier bug, eat beetles, web worms and other pests.
Think twice before destroying that wasp nest. Wasps eat all kinds of garden pests such as caterpillars.
Decollate snails eat the larger pest snails but take several weeks to get established in the garden.
Remember that it takes time before you begin to see the results of adding beneficial bugs to your garden. Using the bugs is a long term approach rather than a quick fix. Release them as directed and provide plants that both shelter and nurture them and watch your garden blossom.