This Article is contributed by Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control. He is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.
Invasive pests are a gardener’s worst nightmare. These pests can infest a garden in no time at all, leaving a trail of destruction everywhere they go. In order to treat these invasive pests, many people turn to chemical-based pesticides; however, using chemicals in your garden can be just as dangerous to your plants as the pests. In order to ensure a healthy garden without the use of pesticides, many gardeners are realizing the enormous benefits of beneficial insects. Beneficial insects are insects that feed on the invasive pests in your garden all while helping pollinate your flowers in the process. The most common beneficial insects include ladybugs, wasps, spiders, praying mantises, lacewings, and ground beetles. If you have invasive pests infesting your garden and want to avoid the use of harmful pesticides, encourage beneficial pests to your garden with these simple tips.
Recognize Beneficial Insects
The first step to encouraging beneficial insects into your garden is to recognize them. When in your garden, learn to recognize the eggs and larvae of these insects and try not to harm them. For example, praying mantis egg cases usually reside in weedy lots. Carry the twig with the cluster of eggs attached and move it to a location free of danger. You should also learn to recognize parasites and their egg cases. One example is the tomato horn worm, which is often seen with a number of white cocoons on its back. These cocoons are from a parasitic wasp, and will hatch to fill your garden with beneficial wasps. Make sure to avoid harming insects that host parasitic, beneficial insect eggs.
Although you are bringing beneficial insects into your garden to serve as a predator, they need protection from their own predators, as well. The best way to protect beneficial insects from their predators is to provide plenty of shelters throughout your garden. Insects like dark damp, undisturbed places in which they can hide during the summer and seek shelter in during the winter months. There are a number of ways you can create these environments in your garden, including laying small piles of logs and stones, growing ground cover plants, spreading mulch, and planting perennial flower beds.
Plant Certain Flowers
In order to obtain the energy to search for prey and reproduce, many beneficial insects feed on nectar and pollen from flowering plants. Researchers have discovered that beneficial insects are actually more attracted to certain plants than others. The most preferred plants are those able to generate high levels of nectar and pollen. In order to invite these insects into your garden, include plenty of these plants throughout your garden. Here is a list of the 10 best plants to attract beneficial insects.
Provide Food and Water
Although the larvae of these insects are voracious eaters of aphids and other invasive pests, when they become adults, they mostly feed on nectar and pollen. In order to ensure these insects stay in your garden for generations to come, you must give them enough food and water for them to flourish. If the adult insects do not have enough food and water to survive, they will migrate to another garden to reproduce, and you garden may once again be infested by pests.
Use Banker Plants
One way researchers are beginning to introduce beneficial insects into gardens and greenhouses is through the use of banker plants. Banker plants are plants that can naturally support beneficial insects and their prey. In order to encourage beneficial insects to gardens and greenhouses, researchers grew barley in a container and intentionally infested the plants with a cereal aphid that would colonize the grasses. Once the aphid population grew to a substantial size, the researchers then introduced parasitic wasps to the barley. These wasps lay eggs in the aphids, and the developing young wasp then kills its host. Over time, the young wasp pupates inside the dead body of the aphid and emerges as an adult. Once they emerge, the female wasps begin their search for other aphids to begin the process again. This method of using banker plants gives gardeners and greenhouse growers a portable bank of pupating aphid parasitoids that will colonize and kill aphids throughout their garden or greenhouse.
Don’t Spray Pesticides
Even if you only use pesticides occasionally in your garden, you could still be harming beneficial bugs . Pesticides are non-discriminatory and will kill any, and all bugs it touches. Even if you use small amounts of pesticide for severe infestation problems, you may be warding off the bugs that help.
Keep Plants Healthy
If your plants are not healthy, beneficial bugs will start looking for a more hospitable environment to gather food and reproduce. Maintaining a healthy garden will ensure beneficial bugs are drawn to your garden and by watering your plants you will also be able or ensure there is plenty of drinking water for bugs. Take time to water your garden each day, and provide them enough nutrients to thrive.
When encouraging beneficial insects to your garden, keep in mind all the factors that will allow them to flourish. Ample food, water, and shelter will not only encourage these insects to your garden, but also allow them to survive and reproduce for generations to come. If you are finding it difficult to introduce these insects to your garden, you may consider purchasing the insects rather than defaulting to chemical-based pesticides. Depending on where you live, certain insects will be more beneficial than others. Do your research to determine which invasive pests reside in your area and try to incorporate the beneficial insects that feed on them.
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