Friday, May 20, 2016

Beneficial Garden Insects, Natures Own Garden Pest Control Method

Most people don’t realize it, but each year homeowners and gardeners use about three times the amount of pest control products that are used by commercial and industrial farmers worldwide. In fact, Americans alone dump approximately 136 million pounds of pesticides on their lawns and gardens each year. That is a lot of toxic chemicals left to find their way into our air, streams, rivers, groundwater supplies, and bodies.

For safety information about common pesticides, see this pesticide chart provided to us by the  Audubon Society.

The saddest part of this is that there are better ways to rid your garden of pests without poisoning the environment and the beneficial insects that, to state it simply, we could not live without. That is what this series will be about and since I am a firm believer in the concept that the closer we stay to how mother nature intended things to be the better off we are, I will start off with a quick guide to beneficial garden insects.

Beneficial Garden Insects

Beneficial insects, in my opinion, should be your first line of defense against  the garden pests that destroy both the beauty and productivity of our gardens. They are the very definition of organic pest control and a beautiful example of how we can work with nature to achieve our goals and benefit our world at the same time.






Braconids, Chalcids and Ichneumon Wasps

These parasitic wasps come in an almost endless variety of species. They destroy leaf-eating caterpillars by infecting them with their eggs. The hatching larva then uses them as a food source, slowly consuming the host.
They can be attracted to your garden by planting:

  • ·         Caraway
  • ·         Carrots
  • ·         Celery
  • ·         Parsley
  • ·         Queen Anne's lace
  • ·         Other members of the Umbelliferae family

These plants are easy to grow, most can be grown from kitchen scraps and some should be left to flower. It's the flower that attracts the insects.


The natural food sources for these cute little devils are:

  • ·         Aphids
  • ·         Mites
  • ·         Scale
  • ·         Whiteflies 

      In short, just about every insect that drives us gardeners insane. They are a must have and cute as a button on their own.

They can be ordered from many catalogue and online sources but it is much easier to simply plant members of the daisy family (Compositae), tansy and yarrow.


Avid consumers of aphids  and their larva Lacewings  also eat a wide variety of other  garden insect pests. They are attracted to "composite" flowers, such as:

  • ·         Asters                       
  • ·         Black-Eyed Susan's  
  • ·         Goldenrod
  • ·         Yarrow

Lacewings can also be purchased online and from many gardening catalogues, and then released directly into your garden.


Hover-flies are great garden companions to the Lacewing. They and their Larva are avid consumers of aphids and other insect pests.
Like the Lacewings, they are attracted to "composite" flowers, such as Yarrow, Goldenrod, Black-Eyed Susan's and Asters.

Praying Mantis

One of the largest insects to be found in your garden, the Praying Mantises has an appetite for most garden pests.  You can order Praying Mantis eggs through mail-order and online catalogues and then set them out in your garden. They will hatch very quickly and grow at an astounding rate.


The most numerous and varied animals on earth, Nematodes (round worms) are an effective weapon against cutworms which destroy sprouts before they can grow into seedlings. They are also effective against beetles, root weevil larvae, and other subterranean pest.

Nematode eggs are microscopic and come in small sponges a million at a time. You just mix them with water and apply to the soil. They hatch and go to work eliminating pests quietly and without a fuss.

Nematodes are harmless to both humans and pets and are available in some garden centers and through mail-order catalogues.

Garden Mini-Insectary

You may have noticed that, with the exception of Hoverflies, all of the beneficial insects on our list are available for purchase from some source and planting them, if you will, can be a wonderful way to get them established in your garden.
Best practices dictate, though, that if you want them to stay and return each year, without the need for reseeding, you need to create a welcome home for them. We will talk about that in our next article in this series “Creating a Garden Mini-Insectary”.
If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them below or contact us directly with the ‘Contact Us Form’ at the top of the page. As always, we love hearing from you and welcome any suggestions you may have.

1 comment:

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