Enlist Beneficial Insects for Natural Pest Control

From Mother Earth News

Here are some tips on how to welcome these helpful bugs and cut back on pesky pests:

1. Plant a Nectary Smorgasbord of Flowers. When they can’t feed on insect pests in your garden, beneficial insects need other food to survive and reproduce. Having certain flowering plants in or near your garden supplies that food in the form of nectar and pollen. Beneficials use the sugar in nectar as fuel when searching for prey and reproducing, and the protein in pollen helps support the development of their eggs.

2. A Home of Their Own. Rather than just inter-planting a few of these flowering plants within your vegetable garden, try to give the their own permanent space near your garden crops. Doing so will help create an undisturbed habitat where insect predators and parasites can feed, reproduce and overwinter. Many beneficials, including ground beetles and soldier beetles, spend at least part of their life cycle underground, so having patches of soil that won’t be churned up by digging or tilling is helpful.

 3. Go Native. Beneficial and pest species vary regionally, so be sure to incorporate some native plants into your beneficial habitat. Native plants provide not only nectar and pollen but also alternate insect prey. They also help promote biodiversity, which is always a good thing!

4. Hedge Your Bets. The studies have shown that a hedgerow can provide an ideal habitat for many beneficial bugs, such as predatory bugs (assassin bugs and minute pirate bugs), syrphid flies, lady beetles, and parasitic wasps and flies. From the shelter of a hedgerow, these “good bugs” can quickly move to nearby garden crops to feed on aphids, caterpillars, leafhoppers and squash bugs.

5. Cover More Ground. Cover your soil with an organic mulch or cover crop. Bare ground exposes beetles, spiders and other beneficial garden insects to climate extremes (temperature, wind, humidity) that can threaten their survival.

6. Water Works. Provide shallow, gravel-filled dishes of water in your garden if you don’t have other water sources such as ponds or wetlands nearby to support beneficial insects (including native bees). Be careful to change the water frequently to avoid creating a habitat for mosquitoes.




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