How to welcome beneficial insects into your garden

October 9, 2015

Not all insects are garden pests. Many visitors are beneficial and can be encouraged by planting nectar-rich flowers, such as clover, goldenrod, alfalfa, and yarrow, which give a change of diet. Read on to learn more.

How to welcome beneficial insects into your garden

7 beneficial insects in the garden

  1.  Chalcid, braconid, and ichneumon wasps are very small wasps that prey on a wide range of other insects (including a few beneficial ones). They generally lay an egg in the body of the prey, which hatches and feeds on the host. Insects attacked include aphids, armyworms, chinch bugs, corn borers, gypsy moths, long-horned beetles, mealybugs, sawflies, and scale insects.
  2. Ground beetles are the brown or black ones that shelter under stones or pieces of wood during the day and hunt at night. They feed on armyworms, chinch bugs, cutworms, gypsy moths, and tent caterpillars.
  3. Hoverflies look like small wasps but do not sting. As their name suggests, they tend to hover in one place. They eat aphids and mealybugs, as well as nectar and decaying fruit. They are also important as pollinators.
  4. Lacewings may be green or brown, depending on the species, and are identified by their large, almost transparent wings, held vertically when at rest. They, and their larvae (called aphid-lions), feed on aphids, mealybugs, scale insects, thrips, and mites.
  5. Ladybird beetles may be red, orange, or yellow and the number of spots differs depending on the species. Both the adults and the (rather ugly) nymphs eat aphids, leafhoppers, mealybugs, and scale insects.
  6. Praying mantises are related to grasshoppers. They wait on a stem with their front legs in a "praying" position and snatch any passing insect out of the air.
  7. Wheel bug is mainly a tree dweller and is recognized by a semi-circular crest behind its head. It feeds on cutworms, hornworms, Japanese beetles, and other caterpillars.

Providing habitat for butterflies

  • A pile of small logs and rough sticks in an out-of-the-way corner of the garden provides a refuge for species, such as mourning cloak, that overwinter as adults and are the first butterflies to appear in spring.
  • You can also build your own special box where butterflies can overwinter in safety.
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