Not only is this dragonfly beautiful, it helps control garden pests like aphids, midges and mosquitoes. Photo: Gbfoto/Dreamstime.com
I couldn’t find very many beneficial bugs when I first started to look for them and I had to do more manual destruction of pests than I wanted. I became more careful about controlling aphids and scale in the garden, learning that they supply honeydew on which some bad guys like ants thrive. But, over the course of time, the population of good garden bugs increased and I was seeing more ladybugs, dragonflies and lacewings, and fewer destructive insects, particularly aphids. My garden is by no means free of any type of bug damage, but the population of good and bad bugs seems balanced to a place that I can accept. I have reconciled to the fact that in order to have the good guys you have to have something for them and their larvae to eat.Emerging from a cluster of bright yellow eggs and becoming a larva, a ladybug can consume 5,000 aphids in a lifetime. Photo: Bostet1962/Dreamstim
As bad bugs are attracted to certain environments, so are the good guys. Of course, they need food, water and shelter, but they like a wide variety of flowering plants, like daisies and marigolds, and herbs, like rosemary and dill. Try to keep all your plants clean and free of dust. Don’t over irrigate or over fertilize at first, as fresh lush growth may attract so many bad guys that the good guys can’t keep up. Most importantly, avoid pesticides as much as possible, especially ones combined with plant food. These can kill a beneficial outright or later, perhaps when a ladybug eats the aphid that dined on an impacted plant.
Looking for something “beneficial” to do while we are all staying close to home? Spend some time in the garden looking at the insects that live there and familiarizing yourself with them. Encouraging beneficial insects in your garden takes a little knowledge, some common sense . . . and lots of patience, but worth it all in the end.