Attract Beneficial Insects to Your Garden

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When nature is in balance, youll find a mixture of good and bad insects in your garden. A close look at the underside of a cabbage leaf reveals a white-fly infestation, hover fly eggs, and a hover fly larva, in the center, getting to work on those whiteflies.
Lady beetles are beneficial, both as larvae and adults. They prey on aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
A mix of annual and perennial flowers provide alternative food sources for beneficials when prey insects are scarce.
When nature is in balance, youll find a mixture of good and bad insects in your garden. A close look at the underside of a cabbage leaf reveals a white-fly infestation, hover fly eggs, and a hover fly larva, in the center, getting to work on those whiteflies.Click To Enlarge

When nature is in balance, you'll find a mixture of good and bad insects in your garden. A close look at the underside of a cabbage leaf reveals a white-fly infestation, hover fly eggs, and a hover fly larva, in the center, getting to work on those whiteflies.

Photo: Ruth Lively

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There are a lot of plants to choose from
Creating your habitat can be a colorful affair. Start luring beneficials quickly with annuals like alyssum, cosmos, zinnias, sunflowers, and marigolds. At the same time, set out perennial flowers and herbs, including golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria), yarrow, lavender, mint, fennel, angelica, and tansy. Beneficials are also fond of dill, parsley, and cilantro flowers. When you’ve finished harvesting these herbs, leave the plants in the garden to flower. I like to let a small patch of carrots run to flower. Their blossoms are sweetly fragrant; beneficials love them.

I try to intersperse insectary plants with my vegetables. I figure if the target pests are close by the pollen and nectar source, there’s a greater likelihood the beneficials will find them. If you add to all this a patch here and there of alfalfa, buckwheat, or clover (all quite attractive to beneficials), you’ll be well on your way to establishing an arsenal of insect allies. Your garden will be healthier and safer because of it.

It’s mid-October and the walking stick cabbage is covered with whiteflies. If I shake a plant, a fluttering cloud rises from the waxy leaves. A few hover flies move among the plants, depositing eggs on the leaves. With lens in hand, I turn over each leaf and look closely at the mass of whitefly eggs, nymphs, and adults. A few hover fly larvae are feeding on the whiteflies. I notice that a couple of larvae have already pupated. New hover flies will emerge in a few days and begin looking for pollen and nectar. A large Asian lady beetle is grazing through the crowd. I guess I can relax. It looks like the insects have this outbreak under control.

Beautiful ways to attract beneficial insects to your garden
A mix of annual and perennial flowers provides alternative food sources for beneficials
when prey insects are scarce.
Tansy Fennel
In addition to hover flies, the yellow button flowers of tansy attract lady beetles, lacewings, minute pirate bugs, and parasitic wasps. The tiny flowers of umbelliferous plants
like fennel are especially attractive to lacewings, but also to hover flies, parasitic wasps, and lady beetles.
Yarrow and arugula Statice

Grow nectar-bearing plants near your edible crops. At left, white yarrow grows beside arugula. Statice (above) is a good annual source of nectar; come fall, bring cut stems indoors for everlasting winter color.
Parsley Sweet alyssum

Parsley that winters over (left) will provide
food for good insects. Sweet alyssum (above) is a season-long nectar factory,
and a perfect haven for lots of beneficials.
Zinnia Mexican sunflower (tithonia)

The flat blossoms of zinnias (left) and
Mexican sunflower, also called Tithonia
(above), make a good insect landing pad,
and the shallow nectar-bearing flowers
are easy for beneficials to drink from.

Bugs by mail

  Green lacewing eggs
  Green lacewing eggs.
 
Many beneficial insects are available by mail; check with suppliers for current pricing. You might find it useful to release a few to get a jump start on pests while your habitat is developing. Perhaps the most effective and economical are lacewings, available as eggs, larvae, and adults. A thousand lacewing eggs will be enough for 2500 square feet.

Lady beetles are widely available in garden centers or by mail. Remember to have some aphids and pollen around before you release them, and don’t be surprised if many fly away.

Trichogramma wasps are available in the form of parasitized eggs glued to a card. In the event of a caterpillar invasion, you hang the card in the garden, the wasps emerge, and you’re on your way to victory. It’s important to consider, however, that trichogramma will attack butterfly larvae, too. Timing and accurate pest identification are very important.

Minute pirate bugs and big-eyed bugs are available, but very expensive.

Sources for beneficial insects
The following companies specialize in beneficial insects. All sell lacewings, lady beetles, and trichogramma wasps, unless otherwise noted.
Beneficial Insectary
9664 Tanqueray Ct.
Redding, CA 96003
800-477-3715
www.insectary.com
No lady beetles

I.F.M.
333 Ohme Garden Rd.
Wenatchee, WA 98801
509-662-3179

Kunafin “The Insectary”
Route 1, Box 39
Quemado, TX 78877
800-832-1113
www.kunafin.com

Unique Insect Control
5504 Sperry Dr.
Citrus Heights, CA 95621
916-961-7945
www.a-1unique

by Joe Queirolo
April 2000
from issue #26

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posted in: beneficial insects

Comments (4)

DeanFields writes: Truly amazing
Posted: 1:17 am on July 2nd
WillieWebster writes: Impressive :-)
Posted: 5:30 am on June 30th
JanFields writes: Thanks for sharing
Posted: 2:04 am on June 30th
erichawkins writes: now I am getting why my plants got effected
Posted: 5:45 am on May 23rd
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