go ahead, bug me…
beneficial garden bugs

Bugs aren’t all bad, and dousing your garden with pesticides is not only bad for the environment and your health, it kills the good bugs along with the bad. And you want the good bugs. Really!

One of the best methods of controlling unwanted pests is to invite their natural predators in. Besides, a garden full of bugs invites birds as well, and a pesticide-free garden is safer for butterflies and bees. All of these things promote organic gardening and improve the biodiversity of your yard. So, there’s the why, what about the how and what?

Ladybugs

They’re not just cute inspiration for childhood rhymes, these little bugs are nature’s powerhouse of pest control. With over 400 species of these beetles in North America, it’s easy to find ones that will love your garden. They feast on aphids, mealybugs, mites and whiteflies, and they are voracious. Attract ladybugs with plants like basket of gold, golden marguerite, dandelion, coriander, butterfly weed, butterfly bush and marigold.

Praying Mantis

The mantis is a mixed blessing, since their diet includes both bad and beneficial bugs. Their favorite food includes spiders, moths and believe it or not, lizards, mice and frogs. They’re a bit tough to attract, but they do love raspberry, hazel shrub and cosmos. Keeping your garden well composted and mulched will also help.

Nematodes

You can’t see them, but these microscopic, worm-like creatures are very effective against pests. They’re considered a natural insecticide since they work on harmful insects and bugs. Nematodes are the natural enemy of ants, various beetles, fleas, insect larvae and varieties of maggots. Nematode eggs are mixed with water and applied to the soil where they will hatch and start feeding on pests. You will need to purchase the first batch, then encourage a healthy colony through regular application of compost and mulch.

Hover-Flies

They may look like bees, but these flies feed on aphids. Attract them with plants like goldenrod, black-eyed Susan and yarrow. Hover flies are natural pest killers and also help pollinate fruit plants like strawberries and raspberries; a win-win for the organic gardener!

Parasitic Wasps

Also known as fly parasites, don’t be alarmed at inviting a wasp to your garden. These guys don’t bother people or pets; they feed on flies and lay their eggs inside them. Attract them with parsley, golden marguerite, tansy and thyme.

Get your garden buzzing

In a healthy, thriving garden, beneficial insects are free to prey on unwanted pests and you’ll have a natural, pest-free garden without the use of harmful chemicals. The results aren’t instant, like with chemical control methods, but they are long lasting and over time, as the population of beneficial insects increases, grow more effective. Talk to a master gardener in your area to find out what varieties of beneficial bugs are native to your area and invite them into your yard then sow some seeds for your favorite plants. Your garden will be alive and buzzing, in a good way!

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