7 ways to maintain your garden with ladybugs and other beneficial insects and critters

June 23, 2015

Some insects and critters, called beneficials, feed on destructive bugs. Find out ways to attract and keep them in your garden.

7 ways to maintain your garden with ladybugs and other beneficial insects and critters


  • Ladybugs eat aphids, green lacewings prey on a wide range of undesirable insects and praying mantises eat just about anything they can catch.
  • Critters from bats to toads are also exemplary bug zappers.
  • Bees and wasps are helpful, too, as long as they're not nesting on your porch.

1. Use ladybugs and other beneficials

  • Ladybugs and other beneficials are drawn to nectar sources, such as Queen Anne's lace, lamb's quarters, goldenrod and numerous other flowers.
  • Other "attractive" flowers and herbs include members of the daisy family, such as yarrow, members of the carrot family (dill, parsley and fennel) and both wild and tame cousins of familiar mint.

2. Supplement existing populations

Supplement existing populations of beneficials with commercially available ones.

  • You can mail-order ladybugs, lacewing eggs and earthworms from suppliers around the country.
  • Even beneficial nematodes, which kill caterpillars and grubs by invading their bodies, are available.

Keep in mind that the right weather conditions — and a ready food source — are important if introduced beneficials are to remain active and thrive.

3. About toads

Toads are among the most efficient insect eaters, but be aware that they may consume as many beneficials as pests.

  • Once you attract them to your garden, they'll need water and shelter.
  • Sink pans filled with rocks and water into the soil.
  • For shelter, simply place a broken flowerpot upside down in a shady spot.

4. Put out a water dish

Be sure the beneficials visiting your garden have enough water to get them through a dry spell.

  • Put out containers of water with rocks or sticks to act as perches.
  • Change it often to keep mosquitoes from using it as a hatchery.

5. A natural insecticide

A natural insecticide called neem, derived from a common plant grown in India, Azadirachta indica, arrests the development of various insect pests.

6. Employ poultry

Bantam hens are better than pesticides at controlling insects.

  • They're busy all day looking for caterpillars, snails and beetles, and they don't dig big holes in the garden as larger chickens often do.
  • Ducks and geese make great pest predators, too.

If you use poultry, be sure to protect tender young plants with protective netting, because the fowl may peck up seeds and seedlings, too.

7. Welcome winter birds

  • After you clean up your garden in the fall, cultivate the soil in areas where you've had insect problems and let winter birds enjoy pecking up hidden pests and their larvae.
  • You can do this in spring, too, when many birds need extra food for their young.
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