One of the biggest annoyances for many gardeners is finding unwanted insects feeding on plants in their yards. These irksome bugs often leave flowerbeds, trees and shrubs with unfixable damage and the gardeners with unfaltering frustration. However before madly surfing the web for ways to eliminate these intruding pests, make sure to distinguish the good from the bad, because some may actually be beneficial for the garden.
Beneficial insects can essentially act as gardeners’ own personal allies against damaging pests by helping to remove or reduce the amount of harmful insect populations. Certain species take their helpfulness to the next level by pollinating certain plants. Some of these benevolent bugs include: ladybugs, parasitic wasps, tachinid flies, hover—or flower—flies and green lacewings.
Attracting beneficial insects to your yard is relatively easy to do. You want to provide shelter and nourishment for them such as perennials, vegetables and flowerbeds that specifically attract the type of helpful insect you want rummaging in your yard. Plants from the daisy (Asteraceae), mint (Lamiaceae) and carrot (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) families are known to attract these accommodating bugs in gardens—but you must allow them to flower. This can be a sticking point if you grow any of the many herbs from these families, many of which you would stop from flowering in order to concentrate their energy on producing foliage. If, for example, you grow dill, a member of the carrot family, make sure to let one or two of your dill plants bloom (shown).
By the way, members of the mint family can be identified by their square stems; if you grow ornamental salvias, for example, just feel their stems. They are square! Members of the carrot family, meanwhile, have hollow stems. Try snapping a stem of parsley to see.
Instead of spraying gardens with potentially harmful insecticides, or pulling your hair out from the exasperation of losing beautiful plants to the hungry, garden-terrorizing pests, try encouraging beneficial bugs to visit your yard and let them do all the dirty work for you.
Image: dill flower, H. Zell
Identify helpful from harmful insects that call your yard home in Good Bug Bad Bug.
With each new season comes new challenges in the garden. In the Horticulture Smart Gardening Guides: Q&A for Every Season you can get our gardening questions answered.
Choose the right plants for the perfect spots in your garden with help from the Garden How-To University: Proper Plant Selection & Maintenance.
Overcome your gardening trials with helpful tips from the Smart Gardening Guide: Problem Solving.
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