Plant an Insectary to Invite Insects to Your Garden:
An insectary is a garden plot just for the insects. The right variety of plants will attract beneficial bugs to the neighborhood. It can be a separate landscape bed right near your garden, or several small plantings interspersed among the veggies.
So what do you plant in an insectary? First, plant some early bloomers to attract beneficial insects early in the season, even before your crops are full of pests. Many of the important beneficial insects, like hover flies and lacewings, feed on pollen and nectar as adults. By providing flowers early in the season, you will invite these insects into your garden in time to unleash their predatory offspring on your aphids and mites.
The insectary should include plants of varied heights. Low growing herbs like thyme and oregano give ground beetles a place to hide. Taller flowers, like daisies or cosmos, beckon to hover flies and parasitic wasps looking for nectar. Praying mantids will hide between the plants in a well-planted insectary.
Umbels and composite flowers provide the most attractive sources of food to most beneficial insects. The tiny, clustered flowers of umbels offer exposed nectar and pollen to smaller pollinators like parasitic wasps. This group includes yarrow, dill, fennel, and wild carrots. Composites attract the larger pollinators, like robber flies and predatory wasps. Composite flowers include many garden favorites, like zinnias and sunflowers.
Provide Water for Insects:
Like all animals, insects need water to live. If you use a sprinkler to water your garden, the puddles that form will suffice to give bugs a drink. Between waterings or if you use a drip irrigation system, the insects will need another source of water. Make a simple watering hole with a saucer and some rocks, and keep it full on dry days. Remember, most of these insects have wings, and will fly away if they can’t get what they need nearby.
Give the Ground Dwellers Some Cover:
Some beneficial insects stay down on the ground, searching for soil-dwelling pests. Ground beetles, for example, rarely climb the plants looking for pests to eat; instead, they patrol the soil at night, munching on slugs and cutworms. During the day, these nocturnal minibeasts need some shelter from the bright sun.
Keep your garden beds mulched, so ground beetles and other earth bound insects can burrow during the day. The mulch will also keep the soil moist, and help the beneficial bugs from drying out. Use stepping stones on garden paths. Many insects love to hide under boards or flat stones when they aren’t hunting pests.
More Insect Info. for the Gardener
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- Garden Insect Pests – Garden Insect Pests and What to Do About Them
- Garden Insects of North America – Book Review of Garden Insects of North Am…
- About Insects – Living With Insects
- Debbie is a great resource for all things INSECT