Thankfully, the food chain is alive and well in most farms and gardens — even urban ones. There is a natural cycle of predator and prey in every existing eco-system—the city farm and garden is no exception.
“Good” insects, heralded as beneficial insects, are great allies in crop production. Beneficial insects consume copious amounts of “bad” insects. Of course, no insect is really “bad” because they do serve a purpose — as a pollinator, a decomposer or a food source for larger critters.
One of the easiest ways to maintain a healthy city farm is to understand this natural cycle of predator and prey, and to encourage it to prosper. Lure plenty of beneficial insects to crops that are frequently plagued with pests. Ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, pirate bugs, tachinid flies and parasitic wasps (don’t worry, they are very tiny and have no stinger) are just a few of the beneficial insects that will make a home on the city farm.
Here are some natural ways to attract — and keep — beneficial insects:
Plant nectar sources.
In many cases (but not all), the larvae of beneficial insects consume the pest insects while the adults feed on nectar. If they don’t have ample nectar, they’ll either leave to find it or won’t lay as many eggs.
Most adult beneficial insects prefer plants with clusters of many small flowers: Herbs like dill, parsley, fennel, oregano, cilantro, chervil and thyme, and annuals like sunflowers, cosmos, amaranth, alyssum and statice. Also, perennials like yarrow, daisies, tansy and angelica are preferred. Interplant crops with these flowers and watch them “buzz” with beneficial activity!