Natural Gardening With Beneficial Bugs

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Post by Contributing Writer, Jill

It’s shaping up to be a buggy year at our house. We are already fighting some very destructive insects in our trees, the moths have officially overtaken our shop and house, and the grasshoppers and flies haven’t even hatched yet!

You might remember my post several months ago about using diatomaceous earth as a natural pesticide alternative. I still think that’s a great option, especially in an “emergency” situation. However, the downside to using diatomaceous earth is that it kills ALL insects it comes into contact with; both good and bad.

I know a few of you just re-read that last sentence. GOOD bugs? No way!

Well, lately I’ve been doing some research and have discovered that much to my surprise, there are far more beneficial bugs than I ever thought!

If you are interested in maintaining a healthy, organic garden, the proper balance of native insects can be vital to your success. Not only can they act as much needed pest control, they also provide pollination and soil aeration/building.

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It varies according to your location and climate, but according to Allison Starcher, the author of Good Bugs for Your Garden, a few of the many helpful garden bugs are:

  • Ladybugs
  • Lacewings
  • Praying mantis
  • Assassin bug
  • Earwig
  • Dragonfly
  • Parasitic wasp
  • Spiders
  • Bees
  • Butterflies

These little guys are more than happy to chow down on the destructive insects wreaking havoc on your veggies.

So how exactly do you persuade the good guys to patrol your garden?

One option is to purchase packages of these beneficial insects from your gardening supply store or online. However, the sources I’ve read, state that this can often be a hit or miss method, as many of the bugs will fly away upon release and never return.

It seems as though a better option is to make your garden attractive to the resident “good guys” and encourage them to stick around.

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There are a few different strategies you can implement to provide a haven for beneficial insects:

1. Plant appealing plants and flowers. A few recommendations I’ve discovered so far are: Alyssum, Basil, Butterfly Weed, Caraway, Clover, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Wild Carrot, Yarrow, Sunflowers, and Zinnias. Not only are these attractive to the good predatory bugs, they also provide beauty and food for us too.

2. Build a watering hole. Just like any other living thing, creepy crawlies need hydration, too. If your garden is too dry, they’ll fly off to find moisture. Consider keeping a shallow dish or saucer filled with fresh water for those dry days.

3. Offer shade or ground cover. Several varieties of beneficial insects prefer to stay close to the ground, rather than fly. They often require a break from the relentless sun and thrive under a layer of mulch. Mulching your garden will also keep your soil moister and prevent weeds, so it’s a great idea all around!

4. Mix up a bug buffet. I was surprised to find several “bug food” recipes online!

One simple “Bug Food” recipe calls for: 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tsp. honey, 4 tbsp. brewer’s yeast, and 2/3 cup of warm water. Mix it up and spray it on your plants. This is thought to help attract ladybugs, as well as a variety of other predatory insects.

So next time you are outside enjoying your garden, take a second look at the creepy crawlies that inhabit it. You just might make some new friends!

This is a subject I am just beginning to learn more about, so I would love to hear your experiences with beneficial insects. Any other tips on making your garden a more appealing place for them?

Jill writes from the homestead she shares with her husband, baby daughter, and an ever-changing assortment of animals. When she’s not in the kitchen preparing traditional foods, you’ll find her outside riding her horses, growing vegetables, milking goats, and killing rattlesnakes. She shares homesteading tales and kitchen tips at her blog, The Prairie Homestead.

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7 comments to Natural Gardening With Beneficial Bugs

  • jill

    This is a great article, and put so simply so as to be easily understandable and helpful, plus encourage us to research this further. I had no idea that earwigs could be helpful. I won’t freak out so much now when I see them. Just the lists of helpful bugs and flowers will help me with my tiny little garden.
    Thank you for posting this, it’s going to help me out.

    [Reply]

  • Great post!

    Like mulch, another “home” you can provide for the beneficial insects are stepping stones. The stones provide a nice cool, moist, and shaded area for them to retreat. If you pick up a large rock or stepping stone in your yard, you’ll probably see a variety of insects living there.

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  • Interesting recipe. I just might try it. I’ve got loads of flowers and mulch this year and I’m working on the water thing but attracting with brewer’s yeast and such. I’m all over it! I’m over run by aphids.

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  • Great post! Will definitely have to try out some of these techniques.

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  • Ruth M

    I have to make a point about 2 of the bugs… earwigs have eaten my seedlings before and one butterfly you don’t want around is the cabbage type. 😉
    Also plants are like people. The better you feed and treat them, the stronger they are, the less they succumb to disease and insects.

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  • Bobbi

    Hello, can you please tell me, which of these beneficial nematodes will get rid of the Scorpions, and Black Widow Spiders that are in my area? We have many, probably more than I know. One of my close neighbors has had his whole attic, just teaming with SCORPIONS! I do not want these in my home, nor my garden.
    Thank you so much for all your help.

    [Reply]

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