Garden pests are a fact of life, and if you have ever had a garden you know that some bugs can be very naughty and will harm your precious plant babies.
On the flip side, there are so many beneficial insects that can fight your battle with garden pests for you. The good news is that it is relatively easy to attract these insects to your garden and once they are there they will usually stay as long as there is a steady food source.
Which Insects are Harmful?
Here in Columbus, Ohio the most common pests we experience in the garden are aphids, cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, cucumber beetles, tomato hornworms, squash bugs, and vine borers.
The best way to spot these pests is by checking your plants regularly. These bugs will live on and feed off of your plants. They won’t just fly around your plant and visit; they will take up residence, make themselves at home, lay eggs, and slowly destroy the plant.
Which Insects are Beneficial?
There are three types of beneficial bugs that you want to attract to your garden.
- Pollinators: Such as honeybees, native bees, and butterflies. These bugs are very important to your garden. Once your plants flower, they will pollinate or fertilize them. This helps food-producing plants to be more productive.
- Predators: Such as ladybugs, hoverflies, and lacewings. These bugs will eat garden pests. For example, ladybugs love to eat aphids and so do their larvae. Yummy!
- Parasites: Certain types of wasps and flies fit into this category. These bugs will basically lay their eggs on garden pests such as caterpillars, tomato hornworms, and cabbage worms. Their larvae will then feed off of their hosts’ bodies essentially destroying them from the inside out. Super gross, but effective.
How to Attract Beneficial Insects to Your Garden
The best way to attract these helpful bugs is by providing a food source of nectar and pollen, aka flowers. Native plants are great for this because they are easy for the bugs that are native to your area to recognize.
Pick a variety of flowers that bloom at different times during the season. This will help attract and keep beneficial bugs in your garden all season long.
In addition to planting flowers around your garden, its also a good idea to plant some companion flowers with your veggies. Marigolds and nasturtium are great companion plants for many veggies and will help attract beneficial bugs.
Once you have established this little ecosystem your work and involvement is pretty minimal. Just keep an eye on the plants to make sure the pests don’t get out of control.