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How to encourage helpful insects
All pests have natural enemies. The trick (especially in an organic garden) is to encourage these helpful insects and other creatures to take up residence in your garden so that they can do the pest management for you.
The best way to do this is to provide the conditions they like and a little food on which they can live. So, be prepared to tolerate a low level of pests for your beneficial creatures to prey on.
Here are three easy steps you can take to find out how to encourage helpful insects:
Insects generally like dark, damp undisturbed places in which to hide during the summer and shelter during the winter months. There are several ways to create such places for them – leave a small pile of logs or stones, grow groundcover plants, and put down slates or tiles hidden in a border. Providing shelter for beneficial insects is also the perfect excuse for letting the lawn grow a little longer.
Provide food and water
The larvae of ladybirds and lacewings are big eaters of aphids and are definitely the kind of insects you want to manage your pests. The adult forms of the beneficial insects do eat pests too but mainly feed on pollen and nectar. A plentiful supply of these food sources in your garden will encourage them to stay put and lay their eggs.
Several groups of plants are excellent providers of nectar and pollen:
- Daisies, including Coreopsis, Echinacea, Rudbeckia and Achillea
- Members of the carrot family, including dill, fennel and parsley
- Mint family members such as oregano, sage, thyme and mint.
Insects also need water, so during dry weather put out a bowl containing pebbles that are almost filled with water. This will enable insects to land on the rocks and drink without falling in.
Nearly all pesticides will kill beneficial insects as well as pests. Also, if all the pests are killed, there will be no food left for the predators – so stop spraying.
If you really do want to spray always use products that are specifically targeted and try to keep them in very specific areas, rather than going for the blanket cover.