I have exciting news! My new book, Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control (Timber Press, 2014) is now on the market. Inside, I teach you how to provide nectar, pollen and habitat to thousands of species of beneficial insects. These predators and parasitoids are the good bugs that help keep pest numbers in check. You’ll learn how to identify these insects and recognize signs of their presence, as well as how to encourage them to do their best work. I hope you will pick up the book! Here’s a sneak peek at what’s inside—five tips to inspire you create an insect-supporting habitat of your own.
1. Stop using pesticides.
Even organic pesticides can harm beneficial insects. Soft-skinned ladybug larvae and many other beneficials are smothered by horticultural oil just as quickly as those pesky aphids are.
2. Allow your garden to stand through the winter.
Beneficial predatory insects and pollinators need places to hunker down for the winter. Twigs, spent blossoms, fallen leaves, and hollow perennial stems are all excellent habitat for insects.
3. Plant the right kinds of plants.
Most beneficial insects do not have specialized mouthparts for accessing nectar. You need to include plenty of small flowers with shallow, exposed nectaries. My book highlights dozens of plants that fit into this category.
4. Encourage biodiversity in your vegetable garden.
Include plenty of flowering annuals and herbs in the veggie patch. Alternate vegetable rows with drifts of flowers to keep beneficial insects right where the highest level of pests are often found.
5. Companion plant to lure beneficials.
Because some beneficial insects are especially drawn to a particular plant, you can partner pest-ridden crops with attractant plants to lure in the beneficials most likely to help you control those pests. For example, partner lettuce with sweet alyssum if aphids are a problem. The small flowers of alyssum are especially attractive to the non-stinging parasitic wasps that use aphids as hosts for their young.
Did you know that at any given time, there are more than 10 quintillion living insects on the planet? Why not use them to your garden’s advantage?