Beneficial insects help our gardens in three main ways they are predators, pollinators and parasitiods. Insectary is the term used for a garden bed planted for bugs and it may seem strange to encourage bugs in the garden but by creating a healthy ecosystem for an array of bugs your garden is less likely to be overrun by the rotten ones that destroy our flowers and crops.
Predators eat the bugs that are eating our plants. The main predators that we like in our Portland gardens are Big-eyed bugs (yes that is what they are really called) Green and brown lacewings, Praying mantis, Ground beetles, Damsel bugs, Spiders, Centipedes, Syrphid flies (hover flies) Ladybugs and Minute pirate bugs. Many of these bugs feed in both their adult and larval stages so it’s great to have them around for their entire life cycle.
Pollinators are critical, they move pollen from male to female bits to produce our veggies and fruits. Great pollinators here are: Honey bees, Bumblebees and Mason bees but there are many more bugs such as Syrphid flies that also act as pollinators.
Parasitoids live part of their life cycle on or in a host and usually destroy the host in the process. Most parasitoids are small stingless wasps and flies.
You can encourage beneficial bugs in your garden by creating an inviting environment for them.
– Make happy bugs by providing protection in the form or groundcovers, mulches, small piles of sticks and yard debris or bug houses. These bug retreats should be located in a warm dry place and put out early in the season to encourage new arrivals.
– Bugs will also need a source for water, They can survive off of regular morning waterings or indulge them with a bird bath or water feature.
– Many of the beneficial insects also feed on nectar in addition to pest bugs so plantings that attract them can help create a healthy ecosystem for diverse bug life.
Attractive plants for beneficial insects:
You can also purchase beneficial bugs to seed your garden with healthy bug life:
Praying mantis eggs
Parasitoid wasp pupae