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Creating Habitats for Beneficial Bugs

Lady Bug

Photo by Mike Deal.

According to climatologists, a warm winter could mean an increase in annoying pests like mosquitoes come spring. With that in mind, now is a great time to start building up habitats for beneficial insects: the ones that are going to help combat pest and disease outbreaks. Eliminating all garden bugs is an impossibility, but it is feasible to choose what kind of insects and animals call your garden home. Creating the right kind of habitat will ensure that your yard is welcoming to creatures that your plants and shrubs need and hostile to harmful threats. Keep these tips in mind:

Do Your Research

The vast majority of insects are not pests, although some gardeners have trouble telling the difference. Before you reach for your pesticide applicator, do your research and make sure you’re not harming a bug that’s ultimately helpful. Bugs like ladybugs, honey bees, wasps, ground beetles, spiders, and mantis’ all perform necessary functions in a garden ecosystems. Stinkbugs, aphids, ticks, and termites, however, can cause irreparable damage.

Go Easy on Pesticides

Pesticides are easy to use and marvelously effective. In fact, they’re almost too effective. Chemical pesticides have been shown to kill just as many beneficial insects as pest insects. Not to mention, toxins in chemical fertilizer can also harm plants or leech into ground water. Check out this blog post to find out how you can kill common pests without resorting to chemical fertilizers.

Plant the Right Kinds of Food

Beneficial insects need plants to eat. Luckily, insects like colorful, sweet-smelling plants. For gardeners, that means planting lots and lots of flowers and blooming shrubs. A large variety of blooms will attract a large variety of insects, so consider mixing it up. You may also want to plant flowers that bloom during different seasons, so that insects can feed off your garden all year long. You could plant pansy and dianthus in the spring, and garden mums and goldenrod in the fall, for example. Many insects also love feeding on fresh herbs so, when you’re growing a batch of basil or rosemary for your kitchen, keep some extra to provide food for beneficial bugs. Remember—native insects are especially fond of native plants, so be sure to include a lot of native blooms in your landscaping plan.

Of course, insects also need water. A birdbath or a small fountain may encourage insects to build a home out of your landscape, but, be warned, still water can also attract mosquitos and become a breeding ground for disease. If you’re going to keep a water feature, be sure to keep it clean.

Build a Sheltering Landscape

Including a wide variety of different habitats within your landscape will allow different kinds of beneficial insects to find shelter there. Trees and shrubs make great hiding places for moths, butterflies, and beetles. For some insects, a compost pile or mound of mulch is ideal. Generally, having plants of varying heights and types will ensure that most any kind of insect can find a home in your garden.

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