How to attract beneficial insects to your garden

June 23, 2015

Although some of the insect visitors to your garden are plant-eating pests, most others help to keep your garden healthy. So how can you attract the beneficial insects – the ones that protect your plants and keep the pests at bay? Here are some tips.

How to attract beneficial insects to your garden

Attracting the good guys

Avoid using pesticides. They will kill not only destructive insects, but also the beneficial ones including: hoverflies, parasitic wasps and spiders that prey on the destructive ones.

  • To attract butterflies to your garden plant buddleias, cosmos and zinnias. Butterflies are very important plant pollinators.
  • Encourage native bees to stop by your garden by planting abelia, bottlebrush, buddleia, lavender, melaleuca and tea-tree. Bees are also vital pollinators, so if you have a productive garden – especially fruit trees – the more bees you have, the better.
  • Set up a shallow water fountain or bird bath in a semi-shaded area. On hot, dry days it will attract the insects.

Knowing your garden allies

Many types of insects can serve as garden protectors. Here are some of the top insect (and non-insect) allies and what they eat.

  • Assassin beetles eat many garden pests, both the adult and juvenile forms.
  • Centipedes eat slugs (adults and eggs) and other soil-dwelling insects.
  • Damselflies (nymphs and adults) eat small insects, including mosquitoes and their larvae.
  • Dragonflies (nymphs and adults) eat mosquitoes and their larvae.
  • Hoverflies (larvae) eat aphids and other small insects.
  • Lacewings (larvae) eat aphids and other small insects.
  • Ladybirds (adults and larvae) eat aphids, scale insects, mealy bugs, mites, leaf-hoppers and other insects.
  • Millipedes eat decaying plant matter in which some of these pest insects live.
  • Praying mantis eat many pests. They are ferocious insect predators.
  • Spiders eat many insects, especially night-flying species and have a voracious appetite for mosquitoes.
  • Wasps (including mud-daubers and parasitic) prey upon the juvenile stage of many tree-damaging moths.

Bloom colours that attract beneficial insects

Believe it or not, insects can see colour. As such, the colours of plants you select will play a role in attracting "good" insects to your garden.

Creamy white flowers
After dark, white flowers signal their presence to night-flying insects. They also tend to attract nectar-feeding birds and insects by day.

Pink and orange flowers
These colours advertise the presence of nectar to birds.

Bright red flowers
Nectar-feeding birds are attracted to red, though bees and most butterflies can't see this colour.

Yellow and purple flowers
These colours indicate pollen-rich flowers, which are more attractive to insects than birds.Top yellow flowers include daisies. For purple blooms, choose from buddleia, foxgloves, mint bush and penstemons.

  • Among the top yellow flowers preferred by insects include daisies.
  • For purple blooms, choose from buddleia, foxgloves, mint bush and penstemons.

Deterring pest insects

To help keep destructive insects away from your garden, set up a "barrier" around the plants you want to protect.

  • Grow colourful, self-seeding annuals and perennials around the edges of garden beds or fence lines where they can go wild.
  • They're a great first line of defense against the pests that would otherwise make a beeline for your prized specimens, and they look good too.

With a few simple changes in your garden and by knowing who the "good guy" beneficial insects are, it's easy to keep your garden healthy and pest-free without using chemicals.

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