Thursday, May 26, 2016

Creating a 'Mini' Insectary in Your Gardenm (3rd article in our organic best control series)

The idea of intentionally inviting insects into your garden may sound a little crazy to some. That is because, most of us have been raised in a chemical-laden world, where new and improved (sic), man-made has been praised and the natural demonized as inefficient and wasteful. The funny part of this is that the exact opposite is true. Man has never developed a system that worked with the elegance that we find in nature.

Chemical pesticides not only poison and kill insects indiscriminately, they wash into our rivers and streams causing environmental damage and leech into our groundwater supply where they have been found  to contribute to Malignant lymphoma, soft tissue sarcoma and many other forms of cancer.

By learning to work with nature using methods like building Insectaries in our gardens we not only protect our plants in the most natural way possible, we protect ourselves and the planet that we will leave behind to our kids and grandkids.

What is an Insectary

For our purposes, an insectary is a small area of your garden, set aside and planted with plant species that will draw and hold beneficial insects. 

The idea is to invite these predator species into our gardens and then let them do what nature intended them to do, eat the pests that eat our plants.

How to get started

The best method that I have found is to alternate small islands of insectary plants with your normal crops.

If you garden in traditional rows, set aside a portion of every second or third row for a few feet of predator drawing plants or plant them in islands throughout your garden.

If you have beds of plants like a herb garden or traditional flower beds found around most homes, reserve a 4 sq ft area, every 15 to 20 feet around your beds or in the center of larger beds.

What Insectary Plants to Choose?

Every geographical area and type of crop has its own set of damaging garden pests to worry about so it is very difficult to give a blanket answer to this question.

What we can do is supply you with the information you will need to make your own choices.

Garden Pest
Prey Insects
Aphidius, Aphidoletes, Hoverflies, Lacewings,
Ladybugs, Pirate Bugs
Ground Beetles
Fungus Gnats
Beneficial Mites
Ground Beetles
Insects Pest Eggs
Damsel Bugs (Nabidae)
Lacewings, Ladybugs, Pirate Bugs
Moth, Beetle And Fly Larvae
Wasps (parasitic)
Pirate Bugs, Lacewings
Ground Beetles
Soft bodied Insects
Beneficial Mites, Dicyphus
Beneficial Mites, Dicyphus, Pirate Bugs
Dicyphus, Pirate Bugs, Wasps (parasitic)

Beneficial Insect
Achillea Filipendulina, Lupin, Sunflowers
Beneficial Mites
Helianthus Annulus, Shasta Daisy
Damsel Bugs (Nabidae)
Ground Beetles
Convolvulus Minor, Queen Anne's Lace,
Iberis Umbellata, Statice, Lupin, Parsley,
Pincushion Flower, Yarrow
Alyssum, Dill, Angelica Gigas, Coreopsis,
Cosmos Bipinnatus, Queen Anne's Lace,
Fennel, Tansy
Achillea Filipendulina, Dill, Convolvulus Minor,
Queen Anne's Lace, Fennel, Tansy, Yarrow
Pirate Bugs
Helianthus Annulus, Shasta Daisy, Sunflower
Tachinid flies
Alyssum, Lemon Balm, Parsley,
Wasps (parasitic)
Coreopsis,  Cosmos Bipinnatus, Dill, Statice,
Lemon balm, Parsley, Pincushion Flower,
Sunflower, Yarrow

Insectary Secrets

Different insects are obviously attracted to different types of plants and have different environmental requirements. Ground Beetles need to have ample ground cover and low growing plants to thrive and Lacewings like to have high, shady, protected areas to lay their eggs. Because of this, it is best to plant a variety of plants in your Insectary Plots.

Mix and match ground covers like clover and vetch with low-growing herbs like thyme, dill and various mints and then add taller composite flowers such as daisies and chamomile. The more variety you have, the better.


The other secret to growing an insectary and using predatory insects to keep your garden pest free is to remember that you are working with a natural process. Even if you order bugs or eggs online you are not going to see a dramatic change overnight.

Nature takes time to work. The best you can do to hurry it along is to seed and provide a proper environment for your little pest control agents to live in and then wait.

On the good side, once you have your Garden Insectary in place, all you have to do is maintain it year to year and your plants will stay protected without any further expense or work. As long as you provide them a good home, your little worker bugs will keep your garden pest free and even help enrich your soil with their waste.

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