Let’s talk about the wide world of creepy crawlies. When we think of insects, most of us imagine chewed up leaves, diseased plants and other forms of rampant destruction throughout our gardens. But a lot of these multi-legged critters aren’t the bad guys we make them out to be, and are beneficial to the health of our gardens. So, before you go running for the nearest can of pesticide or insecticide, let’s take a look at the roster of some of the best nontoxic players keeping the pests away for the home team.
Lady Beetles: More commonly known as ladybugs. These gentle, black-spotted beetles prey on aphids—one of the most destructive insect pests—and can eat up to 50 a day. And it doesn’t stop at aphids, lady beetles also prey on other soft-bellied insects.
Honey Bee: They may not prey on pests like the others, but their role is just as vital. Their job is to pollinate flowers so your plants can produce seeds ensuring not only your garden survives, but others’ as well.
Lacewing: While the adults prefer to feed on pollen and nectar, their larvae are voracious eaters of aphids.
Parasitic Wasp: These little helpers are the definition of kicking a man when he’s down. The adult female injects the plant destroying insects with numerous eggs, which then hatch on the inside of the host before the larvae eat their way out.
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The trick is being able to rally them to come play for you. This can be done a number of ways, but the most important is to not use any pesticides. Pesticides not only eliminate the bad guys, but they also kill off all the helpers.
Keeping the soil covered with mulch will help to conserve moisture, moderate temperatures and keep them cool on the hottest of days.
Planting a number of flowers that bloom during different parts of the year will provide the beneficial insects inhabiting your garden with a steady diet of critters to feast on, and a variety of leafy plants provide them with ample places to take shelter from the heat, rain and predators. A makeshift pond made from a saucer gives them water to drink when it’s dry, but add some small stones so they don’t end up in a watery grave.
For more spring and summer gardening tips, check out planting zones, the benefits of mulch and plant groups.