Ladybug Hunting Aphids On A Yellow Lupin

Attracting Beneficial Insects

Last year my husband came home panicking about the ‘bugs’ all over our plum tree.  We only have room for one fruit tree so any chance that we may not get to eat all those amazing Italian prune plums is reason to panic.  But I was aware of these “bugs” (aphids) and I had actually been allowing them to multiply in my very own little aphid nursery.  Why on earth would I ever WANT aphids, the tiny soft-bodied flies that suck all the precious juices from your plants?  Well, because they attract beneficial insects to the garden. I was growing food for the good bugs!Attracting Beneficial Insects to Your Garden #gardentherapy

Setting up an area of your garden, or a plant placed somewhere strategically, where pests are allowed will help to attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, spiders, hoverflies and parasitic wasps to find thier way to your garden.  I plant a few shasta daisies (for black aphids) and lupins (for green aphids) around the garden as ground nurseries because aphids love them.  A colony of the little monsters will cover those flowers and in no time the whole garden is being trolled by aphid hunters.  This is particularly helpful near my lettuce garden, as the parasitic wasps and hoverflies zip in and between the lettuce leaves effectively cleaning my greens before I even pick them.Ladybug  - How to Attract Beneficial Insects

The aphids on my plum tree, however, don’t even get a chance to touch a leaf of plum because once the ladybug eggs hatch it’s covered with alligator-like larvae that can eat hundreds of aphids a day.

Ladybug Larva  - How to Attract Beneficial Insects

By the time they pupate and become the beetles we are all familiar with, they have spit shined my plum tree without a sign of a pest.  And of course my plum would never even set fruit if it wasn’t for pollinators so I make sure there are lots of flowers for the bees as well.

Bee on Bee Balm - How to Attract Beneficial Insects

Beneficial Insects (you want) in the Garden

  • Ladybugs
  • Lacewings
  • Bees
  • Ground beetles
  • Minute pirate bugs
  • Earwigs
  • Big-eyed bugs
  • Assassin bugs
  • Damsel bugs
  • Mealybug destroyers
  • Soldier beetles
  • Praying mantis
  • Aphid midges
  • Parasitic wasps
  • Spiders
  • Tachinid flies
  • Syrphid flies (hoverflies)

Plan Your Garden to Have 3 Things for Beneficial Insects

1. Nectar provides beneficial insects with sugar. A few great sources are carrots, fennel, and Alyssum. Plant them and let them bloom.

2. Pollen provides protein for the good guys. Plant pollen-rich Asteraceae family of plants (asters, daisies) and Echinacea.

3. Trap plants like nasturtiums, lupins, and shasta daisies will attract insects that the beneficials feed on. Can you see what the ladybug in this photo is hunting?

ladybug hunting aphids on a yellow lupin

The lesson here in organic gardening is to do what you can to let nature take care of the problem.  Plant flowers for pollinators, start an aphid nursery, and give beneficial insects a few extra weeks to arrive before you attack pests on your plants.  If it becomes a fight and you are not winning, then perhaps it’s time to considering making a change to what and where you plant.  Gardening should be about nurturing not napalm.

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About the Author : StephanieAn artistic gardener aiming to feed the body & soul through an urban potager garden & a community veggie plot in Vancouver.View all posts by Stephanie

  1. Laura
    LauraApril 22,10

    Good reminder! There is nothing wrong with a few bugs in the garden!

  2. Abby Palmer
    Abby PalmerApril 22,10

    Fabulous shot of the bee in mid-flight!

  3. Ottawa GardenerOttawa
    Ottawa GardenerOttawaApril 22,10

    Attracting beneficials is so much fun as it’s a great ‘excuse’ for gardeners to do what most of us love to do best: diversify. Diversity of plant types, habitats, microclimates and more!

  4. KatieLovesDogs
    KatieLovesDogsApril 22,10

    Thanks for helping me to reframe my thoughts about aphids.

  5. Jan (ThanksForToday)
    Jan (ThanksForToday)April 22,10

    I learned something new about aphids…thanks! I don’t use pesticides so some of my hostas have holes, etc…but it doesn’t bother me either. I do have shasta daisies in one area so maybe they are helping keep things to a minimum…I didn’t know that! And thanks for linking your post to my blog…The contest is over but I can add it to the comments section on the original page in case anyone checks. Take care;-)

  6. Aerelonian
    AerelonianApril 22,10

    Interesting, thanks for posting! I had no idea those were lady bug larva or that they were such good pest munchers. I just assumed they were some other species of insect.

  7. Priscilla Prince
    Priscilla PrinceApril 22,10

    Great info about beneficial insects. I’m going to eventually start a lady bug home when my garden becomes established. It’s still snowing here and I can’t wait for warmer weather!

  8. Ros
    RosApril 24,10

    As we are in the process of starting to set up a garden, these are great thoughts to keep in mind… Thank you! At the moment our ‘garden’ is one big patch of tan bark, so when we tried a small veggie patch it was destroyed by pests in a second! There is nothing else in the garden so nothing to attract them or their predators. Thanks heaps for the ideas :-D

  9. pausleal
    pauslealJune 29,10

    Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

  10. Marion
    MarionNovember 6,10

    There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points. Keep working ,great job!

  11. home health
    home healthDecember 4,10

    My partner and I really enjoyed reading this blog post, I was just itching to know do you trade featured posts? I am always trying to find someone to make trades with and merely thought I would ask.

  12. Hack Clash of Clans
    Hack Clash of ClansOctober 17,13

    Sweet blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been
    trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Thanks

  13. Tessa Neill
    Tessa NeillNovember 12,13

    Great post! People think I’m crazy when I tell them that they don’t want to annihilate their bad bugs or the good bugs will starve:-). I’m currently in the process of creating an insect hotel, probably 2, in an area where I’m building a huge mandala- working hard to create balance with some toad habitats add well – so much fun =)

  14. Tara
    TaraMarch 29,14

    Wow! I’ve learned so much, Stephanie! I’m wondering, though, what is a parasitic wasp? How do I know that I’ve got one? Is there a symbiotic wasp, as well?

    I am one of those flighty nutbars about wasps, and while I know that we need the pollinators, it would be great for me to know a bit about them… and who is visiting my garden?

  15. Andreea
    AndreeaApril 24,14

    Hello,

    This is very useful information indeed, but I do have one question: my city garden is filled with aphids (all the roses have them and even jasmin has black ones). however, there are very few ladybugs there – could it be the pollution? My garden is next to a road, so perhaps the noise and the fumes from the cars are driving the beneficial insects away? Every spring, new growth of my roses is killed by aphids and there doesn’t seem to be anything stopping them…

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