I’ve talked about beneficial insects as a means of pest control in the vegetable garden before. Without a doubt, getting natural predators to destroy pests for you is the easiest, cleanest, no-hassle way to have happy plants.
While attracting these insects is not hard, the first step is to learn to recognize them when you see them. So here are Five More Beneficial Insects to keep an eye out for in the garden:
1. Soldier Beetle. As I mentioned in my post on controlling aphids, last year I had an aphid infestation on my fava beans. I was out there every day spraying my plants with water, but there always seemed to be more aphids on the plants. Then suddenly, this swarm of bugs descended on my fava beans. They were soldier beetles, and like a protecting army, they ate all the aphids and then moved into the backyard and ate more aphids off some sow thistle I had allowed to grow up. I couldn’t believe how great these bugs were.
To attract to your yard, plant hydrangea, catnip, or goldenrod in your garden.
2. Tachinid Fly. There are many types of flies out there in the world besides the common house fly, and tachinid flies are some of the best for your garden. The adults lay eggs on pests like cutworms or earwigs, and the larvae then destroy the insect from the inside out. One female can lay up to 6,000 eggs. The adult flies are also pollinizers.
To attract to your garden, plant parsley, buckwheat, or lemon balm.
3. Black Ground Beetle. Talk about ubiquitous, these beetles are everywhere. They like to eat soft-bodied insects like caterpillars, snails, and slugs. Black Ground Beetles are nocturnal, meaning they are a defense to insects that do damage to your plants at night.
They like to live in decaying plant matter, so black ground beetles will probably show up in your mulch.
4. Braconid Wasps. I’m not going to lie, braconid wasps are disturbing little suckers. They are parasitoid wasps that lay dozens of white eggs on pests like the tomato hornworm, which then slowly suck the life out of the poor caterpillar. (Click here to see an image of what this looks like.) But they are extremely effective in the garden and get rid of many pests.
To attract, plant herbs like yarrow, coriander, fennel, or dill.
5. Spiders. Every year in late summer, my garden is suddenly full of spider webs. It is always tempting to remove them, but I usually let the webs stand, at least around tomatoes and other pest-attracting plants. Spiders will certainly eat anything that comes into its web–although that also includes other beneficial insects like honeybees.
To attract spiders, just let the webs stay put. I notice that one web is soon surrounded by several others; spiders must look to each other for good spots to build their homes.
For more on what plants to put in to attract specific beneficial insects, check out this site.