How to Attract Good Insects

Photo: istockphoto.com/zorani
About 98% of bugs will benefit your garden. Here’s how to keep the good ones coming back

There is nothing more frustrating than coming out to your garden one day and finding that it has been ruined by hungry insects like aphids or hornworms. One way to help control pests is by attracting the good bugs — including the ones that eat all the bad bugs. Some classic good bugs in the garden are ground beetles, predatory wasps, ladybugs and praying mantises. Ladybugs are natural predators of aphids. Ground beetles are very helpful in controlling soil insects. Praying mantis feed on larger problems insects like caterpillars. Predatory wasps feed on caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects.

Offer ideal conditions for good bugs.

Grow flowers that bloom in the spring and grow to various heights. Daisies and cosmos are ideal because they act as beacons for predator wasps and ladybugs. Plant daisies near your roses to attract ladybugs. They will help control aphids, which are known to cause extensive damage to rose leaves and flower buds.

Provide good ground cover.

Ground beetles do not readily climb plants to get their food but they do take control of soil insects. They are active at night and require ground cover, whether it’s straw mulch or low-growing plants like oregano and thyme. This allows ground beetles to burrow and hide during the day when they are not active. Good ground cover and taller plants also provide a nice home for praying mantises, which can handle the larger problem insects like caterpillars. Praying mantises have a huge appetite. If your garden is prone to lots of bug problems, this good bug will be very helpful.

Give insects a drink.

Now that you have attracted the good bugs in to your garden, you want them to stay. Providing shelter is one way but they also need water. If you frequently water your garden from a hose, this will create puddles that the bugs can drink from. But, if you use a drip irrigation system, putting out a small flat open water container works just as well.

Green gardener Mark Cullen is a radio and TV personality, author of 18 gardening books and answers thousands of questions at Markcullen.com.