Attracting Beneficial Bugs

The best way to draw beneficial bugs into your garden is by growing their favorite flowering plants. Some of these include:

  • Mint
  • Daisies (shasta and ox-eye)
  • Wild carrots (Queen Anne’s lace)
  • Cosmos
  • Marigolds
  • Clover

You can also attract these insects by offering them a bug bath. Fill a shallow container with stones or gravel and just enough water to keep it moist. Since insects are prone to drowning, add some larger stones to the dish to serve as suitable resting sites. This way they will be able to drink the water without becoming immersed in it. Another way to lure the good bugs to the garden is by not using any harmful pesticides.

Types of Beneficial Insects

In addition to common pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, many other bugs can be helpful:

Parasitic wasps — These beneficial insects lay their eggs in the bodies of numerous pests, feeding off of them and eventually killing them. Some of their victims include tomato hornworms, aphids, beet armyworms and cabbage worms. You can welcome these parasitic friends into the garden with plants such as dill, yarrow, white clover and wild carrot.

Centipedes & millipedes — You may be surprised to learn that the good deeds of both the centipede and millipede far outweigh the bad. Centipedes wipe out all sorts of soil-dwelling pests, such as slugs, while millipedes help break down organic matter.

Assassin bugs — Just as their name implies, these insects are a natural part of the garden and help suppress harmful bug populations by feeding on flies, harmful beetles, mosquitoes and caterpillars.

Aphid midges — Aphids, a common nuisance in the garden, are extremely destructive to plants. They not only suck out the sap, but also spread diseases. The aphid midge is one of a number of bugs that will devour these harmful pests.

Hover fly — If you plant some flowering weeds, such as wild carrots and yarrow, between your garden crops, you are sure to attract another helpful insect, the hover fly. The adult hover fly may not do much, but just one of its larvae will do the trick, devouring approximately 400 aphids during its development.

Lacewings — Green lacewing larvae feed on aphids, mealybugs, scale bugs, moth eggs, mites and small caterpillars. These insects can be encouraged into the garden by providing water sources and flowering weeds.

Ladybugs — Another aphid-eating insect is the kindly ladybug. Soft-bodied insects, as well as their eggs, are also a favorite of ladybugs. These attractive insects are tempted into the garden with flowering weeds and herbs such as dandelions, wild carrots, yarrow, dill and angelica.

Pirate Bugs — Pirate bugs attack many bad insects and are especially fond of thrips, spider mites and small caterpillars. Plant some goldenrod, daisies, alfalfa and yarrow to charm their presence.

Praying mantids — The praying mantis is a popular garden friend. This insect will feed on virtually any type of bug, including crickets, beetles, caterpillars, aphids and leafhoppers.

Ground beetles — Although most beetles are harmful to garden plants, ground beetles are not. They feed on cutworms, caterpillars, snails, slugs and other soil-dwelling insects. Incorporating white clover into the garden entices this good bug.

Rove beetles — Commonly found taking shelter beneath stone or wooden walkways are valuable decomposers called rove beetles. Besides feeding on organic matter, they also eat harmful insects such as snails, slugs, aphids, mites and nematodes.

Soldier beetles — Entice soldier beetles into the garden by mixed plantings of hydrangeas, goldenrod and milkweed, where it will feed on caterpillars, aphids and grasshopper eggs.

Other Beneficial Bug Tips

Pillbugs, also known as sowbugs, feed on decaying organic matter and do not pose a threat within the garden unless overpopulation occurs. If this happens, marigolds can often take care of the problem.

Mulch can serve as either a deterrent for bad bugs or an attraction for the good ones. For instance, mulching with heavy straw deters numerous types of beetles, most of which are harmful, and mulching with hay or dry grass is a good way to attract spiders.

Becoming familiar with the insects that visit your garden is the best defense when combating harmful bugs. Pesticides can hurt beneficial insects as well as plants, and can be dangerous if not used properly. If you incorporate a variety of useful plants and welcome the good bugs into your garden, you can let them do all of the work instead.