Despite our desire to keep bugs away, they sometimes buzz into our lives. This isn’t always a bad thing. Some bugs help us out by pollinating and eating harmful pests that like to eat our plants and annoy us. These beneficial insects can be nice to have in our gardens and around our homes. Check out how to attract and protect these helpful bugs.
Attracting Beneficial Insects
It’s time to pull out your gardening gloves and head outside. Plants are one of the best ways to attract helpful bugs. Bugs need sources of food and plants can be a perfect snack. Their nectar and pollen is a great food source for bugs. Some plants do a better job of welcoming beneficial insects than others do. You’ll want to have a variety of plants that bloom at different times for continuous coverage. We’ve made a list of plants that are great at making bugs feel at home.
Not only is dill a great addition to your recipes, it also brings helpful bugs to your yard. Dill attracts lacewings and ladybugs. Lacewings are known to munch on spider mites, mealybugs, aphids and thrips. Ladybugs are the champions of aphid and mite eating contests, consuming thousands of aphids in their lifetime. It’s best to plant dill in the spring when there’s no chance of frost. This feathery, green plant likes to be in the sun and have soil that drains well. It will bloom in the summer and you can replant it to have a continuous supply. Dill doesn’t enjoy windy conditions, so make sure it is protected.
You’ll definitely want to put spaghetti on the menu with fennel growing in your garden. This fern-like plant has a licorice flavor and it’s often used in Italian dishes. Ladybugs and lacewings love to spend time near fennel. The plant also serves as a host for butterflies who will help pollinate your garden. Fennel should be planted in the spring after frosty conditions have passed. Fennel requires a lot of sunlight, but also needs plenty of water. The plant is sensitive to cold weather, but can survive the winter in warmer climates. Fennel doesn’t always get along with other plants, so it’s best to give it some space.
If you want to add some sunshine to your garden, you’ll definitely want to plant yarrow. Though yellow yarrow is most common, it also comes in shades of pink, red, and white. Its lacy foliage is a bug favorite for a habitat and egg laying spot. Yarrow attracts ladybugs as well as butterflies. It keeps pests away, and will also keep pollinators in your garden. As its bright color suggests, yarrow likes to spend time in the sun. While yarrow is drought resistant, it will still need to be watered weekly. Planting yarrow in late spring or early summer will give you the best results.
Lavender Globe Lily
This plant lets its name do the talking. The lavender globe lily blooms as spheres of purple flowers. They normally grow in clusters and bloom in the spring and summer. Several bugs tend to spend time near lavender globe lilies. Butterflies, bees, lacewings, and hoverflies are all attracted to the plant. The larvae of hoverflies are known for eating aphids, scales, and thrips. Lavender globe lilies need sunlight, but like to have a little bit of shade. They can also grow in moist soil, but make sure that it also has decent drainage.
Sweet Alyssum is known for its sweet, honey scent. This ground-covering plant comes in shades of pink, white, and purple. It’s a great option for people who want to keep plants in their garden during the fall. If planted in the spring, the flower will bloom between June and October. Having plants that last longer will mean better protection for your plants. Sweet Alyssum attracts ladybugs, hover flies, lacewings, and several pollinators. Sunny spots make the perfect home for sweet alyssum. When the soil begins to feel dry, you’ll know you need to water the plant.
Queen Anne’s Lace
It’s time for this wildflower to dust off its tiara. The white flower has a lacy appearance with a deep red dot in the center. Legend has it that this dot represents a drop of blood from Queen Anne that fell onto the lace she was sewing. Queen Anne’s Lace is actually a wild carrot and its roots smell like the vegetable. This royal flower is great for attracting green lacewings and ladybugs. Be patient with the flower, because its life cycle takes two years to complete. It will be ready to bloom in the late summer and can be planted in the spring or fall. The plant is low-maintenance, but it will spread.
The flowers love to feel the warmth of the sun. Sunflowers like to be in direct sunlight, and they will actually turn their yellow petals to face the sun. While these flowers can reach heights of 16 feet, there are also smaller sunflower plants. Sunflowers attract ladybugs, lacewings, and spiders. Even if they’re a little scary, spiders can be great yard-mates. Not only do they eat harmful plant pests, they also eat the ants and mosquitoes that get on our nerves. Make sure you plant sunflowers in sunny places with well-drained soil.
A goldenrod a day, keeps the doctor away. Goldenrods are known to help with various medical conditions including sore throats, colds, and the flu. This flower will brighten your garden from mid-summer into the fall. Soldier beetles are known to draw close to goldenrods. Since these bugs eat aphids and some caterpillars, it may be wise to welcome them into your garden. These flowers can survive in any climate as long as there is plenty of sunshine. When they are young, they will require more attention and regular watering. However, as they grow you will be able to have a more hands-off approach.
Protecting Beneficial Bugs
Adding these plants to your garden is a great way to welcome helpful bugs, but the work doesn’t stop there. You have to ensure that the bugs stay in your yard. The plants in your garden will keep your bugs’ stomach full, but they still need water and protection.
Just like we need water, so do bugs. Providing bugs with an adequate water supply will make sure they are happy tenants. Birdbaths and sprinklers are great way to add water to your space. Another option is to place a shallow dish filled with rocks and water in your garden. Bugs aren’t always great swimmers, so make sure the dish isn’t filled too high. It’s also important to keep any water supply fresh. Stagnant water will attract mosquitoes and that’s definitely not what you want buzzing in your yard.
Plants can be used as a source of shelter, but some bugs require a little more care. Rocks and stones make the perfect hiding spot for bugs. Plus, they can be a great, natural décor option. You may also want to add weeds or ornamental grasses to your garden. These will provide beneficial bugs with a permanent residence. It’s also not a bad idea to leave a little bit of soil bare. Giving the bugs options will definitely keep them happy.
Think Before You Spray
We have a tendency to jump into action when we spot a bug near our home. It’s totally understandable, but we need to make sure we’re taking the right steps. Pesticides may seem like the best option because they will eliminate the problem. However, some pesticides don’t just target the problem pest. Synthetic chemicals tend to linger, and beneficial insects suffer. Don’t worry! There are other options. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) takes a more environmentally friendly approach to pest control. Products made with plant-based and naturally occurring ingredients, like Maggie’s Farm Simply Effective Pest Control products, effectively target problem pests while leaving beneficial insects alone. They provide a great solution when you’re dealing with a tricky bug situation.
Bugs can put a damper on our fun. Whether they’re eating our plants or buzzing in our ears, we don’t want to deal with them. Thankfully, we don’t have to fight them off alone. When we welcome bugs that are willing to give us a hand, we have less to worry about. Just remember, it’s important to keep these beneficial bugs safe.