• IvyShepherd

On pollinators and beneficial insects for our gardens

How and why we should attract these mini-beasts

Each and every garden is a mini habitat and micro-ecosystem. There is a whole host of insects out there and they are contributing to the success of our gardens every single day.

In many of my gardening articles, I’ve written about pollinators and why we should attract them to our gardens. Pollinators are very important, they pollinate our crops and plants to ensure that we have good yields and flowers. But they are only one group of insects that we need for our gardens.

Some of the insects in our gardens are providing us with a form of natural pest control, in that they prey on those pesky pests eating our plants and crops. So we would do well to encourage them. Here are just a few that you might see out in the wild.

Beneficial and beyond

Everyone knows how important ladybirds are to gardeners. They will prey on aphids all day long, so we should protect them all that we can. Their larvae are also known to feed on aphids and mites.

Plants such as calendula and marigolds will attract ladybirds, which goes hand-in-hand with the use of companion planting for tomatoes. Ladybirds will also appreciate a place to shelter over winter, so why not build a bug hotel to house them and other insects snugly through the cold season.

Second in line to bees as the best pollinators are the hoverflies and their usefulness in the garden cannot be overstated. They do a brilliant job of pollination, but did you know that hoverfly larvae also love to snack on aphids and caterpillars, ridding us gardeners of the pests on our roses and brassicas. Hoverflies will be attracted by yarrow or dill and many other garden plants.

Lacewings are the delicate silvery flies in our gardens and they and their larvae help us gardeners so much by munching their way through aphids, caterpillars and whitefly. You can draw them in by planting cosmos and alyssum.

You might not have seen them, but ground beetles are the nighttime predators of slugs and snails. They will also eat caterpillars, which is good news to us gardeners as these pests can very quickly destroy our crops. Ground beetles are partial to rhubarb and other perennials, so we can very easily encourage these to our own little ecosystems.

All this predator and prey might sound gruesome, but it’s worth remembering that this is all part of the natural food chain in our gardens. These insects feed on our garden pests, but birds will also feed on caterpillars and some of these insects too.

And a vast proportion of caterpillars will escape the predators and transform into the beautiful moths and butterflies that we love to see in our gardens.

Insects in peril

Pests and diseases in gardening are inevitable. Our plants and crops can be decimated by an infestation of pests, such as aphids or caterpillars.

There are really only two ways of controlling these infestations, and that is through the use of chemical or non-chemical methods.

In the past, the use of pesticides were heavily employed and still are, particularly in food production and agriculture. There is an argument that pesticides have their place in this world, but some can potentially be very harmful to pollinators and beneficial insects, particularly when not sensitively used.

But there is a subtle shift happening in the gardening world towards the increased use of non-chemical controls of pests and that of organic gardening and farming.

As stated above, there is a whole host of beneficial insects out there and these can be used to our advantage, if we only know how to encourage them.

For a more natural and organic way of gardening, we can combine the encouragement of these beneficial insects to our gardens as predators of those pesky pests, as well as using methods such as companion planting to discourage them too.

Pesticides can be indeterminate and they can have a very negative impact on our pollinators and those predatory insects that prey on our pests.

Therefore by using an organic control, this has got to be a more effective way to protect our environment, by restoring the natural order of things and increasing the biodiversity in the micro-ecosystems that are our gardens.

So let’s do all we can to attract the pollinators to our gardens, but don’t forget to also spare a thought to all the other beneficial insects that very quietly contribute to the health and success of our gardens and ecosystems every single day.


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