Using insecticides for pest control in your garden kills bad bugs, but they will also kill good bugs and may kill your vegetable garden, as well. The idea that a garden can thrive well in an ecosystem made sterile through the use of poison is popular in North America, but the impact both locally and to the environment makes it untenable. Horticulturalists and gardeners have known for centuries that there are good insects as well as bad insects and that attracting the former to control the presence of the latter is what will make a garden truly flourish the way Mother Nature intended.
So how do you attract the beneficial insects in order to naturally exterminate the bad ones? The best way to do this is to create an environment in your garden that provides the elements that all biological life requires, including food, water, and shelter. Since many beneficial insects actually consume nectar, pollen, and other insects (often the larvae of beneficial insects do the work of consuming the bad bugs), making space for flowers and plants is the best way to attract them. There are many different plants that beneficial insects like, but just to give you an idea of where to begin, here are the top four.
1. Asters (Daisy Family): Daisies are an excellent choice for any garden because they are accessible to insects, given the fact that they have an open center. Asters are perennial flowers that provide a rich source of nectar, attracting not only bugs whose larvae destroy the insects that are eating your garden leaves, but also butterflies and bees. Asters differentiate with small multiple flowers to attract a diversity of beneficial insects without drowning them in the nectar of larger blooms. Annuals such as cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers are other daisies that should be considered.
2. Alyssium (Mustard Family): One of the main beneficial insects that alyssium attracts are hover flies, whose larvae are excellent hunters of aphids. Adult hover flies resemble bees, but they do not have stingers. They do, however, pollinate berries. Iberis, Lunaria, single-blossom stock, Arabis and dame’s rocket all attract the good bugs, both predators and those who tend to destroy bad bugs through the process of reproduction (in other words, the bad insects often become food for larvae).
3. Mints: While the generic term “mint” is not a specific plant, there are many kinds of mint that attract a diversity of the kinds of insects that you want in your garden. Herbs like oregano, thyme, lavender, and rosemary add aesthetic value to your olfactory experience of gardening, as well. Ornamental herbs are also useful, such as Nepeta, Monarda, Stachys and others.
4. Fennel (Carrot Family): One of the plants in the carrot family that is easier to grow and control is ornamental fennel, which is an attractant to Braconid wasps, tiny non-stinging beneficial insects that combat aphids, hornworms, spider mites, leaf miners, beetle larvae, true bugs, and corn earworms among others. Other members of the carrot family work well, too, such as Queen Anne’s Lace, parsley, grandiflora and others.
Some gardeners find that the odor of marigolds deters bad bugs and scatter the compact and attractive orange-flowered plant throughout their garden. Coriander repels aphids and tansy repels ants. Introducing plants from the pea family can benefit your soil, too, since they take nitrogen from the air and store them in the roots of your garden plants.
There are numerous plants that attract beneficial insects, so the options are plentiful depending on your preferences. Angelica, orange stonecrop, buckwheat, thyme, cilantro, goldenrod, manzanita, elderberry, milkweeds, coffeeberry, and hundreds of others offer a way to control insect populations while producing a vibrant garden environment.
About the Author:
Daniel Mackie, owner of GreenLeaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy and is a regular guest on HGTV. An innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, GreenLeaf Pest Control was the first pest control company in Canada to adopt successful bed bug eradication strategies using bed bug dogs and thermal remediation. Daniel and his partner, Sandy Costa, have developed not only a successful pest control business but also a winning business strategy based on clear communication, quality customer service, and a brand that keeps customers coming back.