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Creating a Garden Oasis for Beneficial Insects

Updated: Jan 30

In gardening, insects, fungi, and bacteria play essential roles that often go unnoticed. These unsung heroes can benefit your garden in various ways, from controlling pests to pollinating plants. Creating a welcoming environment for beneficial insects can nurture a sustainable garden while supporting native wildlife. 


1. Have Flowers in Bloom

When it comes to attracting beneficial insects, flowers are your secret weapon. Native wildflowers, in particular, are fantastic for drawing these helpful garden guests. Insects are naturally drawn to pollen and nectar, so strive to have flowers in bloom throughout the growing season. Think of it as a continuous buffet for your beneficial. Diversity is key. Different types of flowers will attract a diverse range of beneficial insects. Many are particularly fond of daisy-shaped flowers, which provide both sustenance and a resting place. Consider planting herbs and flowering perennials alongside your other plants to entice beneficials.


2. Maintain a Water Supply

Just like any other creature, beneficial insects need water to thrive. Ponds, bird baths, and sprinklers can serve as water sources to attract these garden helpers. However, more than drip irrigation systems will be required. Set up shallow dishes filled with rocks and water in your garden to ensure all types of insects have access to water without the risk of drowning.


3. Provide Shelter

Beneficial insects appreciate a safe haven in your garden. Mulching your garden and placing stepping stones can create a moist and cozy environment for them to hide. Take your time tidying up in the fall; leaving some spent perennials can provide valuable habitat for these creatures.


4. Say No to Pesticides

One of the most critical aspects of maintaining a garden teeming with beneficial insects is avoiding pesticide use. Pesticides can indiscriminately wipe out all insects in the area, including the good ones that serve as food for future generations of beneficials. Beneficials have smaller populations and a harder time recovering than pests, which means that pests can bounce back faster and stronger after pesticide use.

If you must resort to pesticides, do so mindfully. Consider what, when, and how much you use to minimize harm to beneficials. For instance, spraying after sunset reduces the exposure of beneficials to chemicals. Never spray a plant in bloom, as this is when they are most attractive to beneficial insects, increasing the risk of harm.


5. Cover Crops

Cover crops are an excellent addition to your garden strategy. They protect and enrich areas that will remain unplanted for a while. When using cover crops, remember to plow them under before they go to seed. Allow some of your cover crops to flower, as they serve as a vital source of nutrition for attracting beneficials when food is scarce.


Everyday Hero Beneficials

Now that you have the basics of creating an inviting habitat for beneficial insects let's meet some of the most common ones you might encounter in your home garden:

Ladybugs: These little wonders are famous for devouring aphids but also lend a hand in controlling scale, thrips, mealybugs, and spider mites. Ladybugs are particularly drawn to yarrow and flowers rich in nectar.

Bees: The champions of pollination, bees adore flowers brimming with nectar and pollen. Plant rosemary, lavender, sunflowers, and cover crops to entice these diligent workers.

Ground Beetles: If you have issues with slugs, cutworms, or snails, ground beetles are your allies. To attract them, create a suitable habitat with hiding spots like stepping stones and rocks.

Parasitic Wasps: These miniature heroes specialize in controlling whiteflies, scale, codling moths, and cutworms. They are fans of alyssum, yarrow, and clover.

Praying Mantis: Masters of pest control, praying mantises, dine on aphids, beetles, mosquitoes, flies, cockroaches and grasshoppers. Encourage them by providing hiding spots in raspberries, roses, grasses, and shrubs.


Plants that Attract Beneficials

To further enhance your garden's appeal to beneficial insects, consider planting various flowers and herbs known to attract these garden allies. Here's a list of annuals, herbs, and perennials that can help create a welcoming habitat for beneficial insects:


  • Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

  • Calendula

  • Centaurea sp. - Cornflower / Bachelor Buttons

  • Cosmos

  • Gazania

  • Helianthus - Sunflower

  • Lobelia erinus – Edging lobelia

  • Love-in-a-Mist (Nigella damascena)

  • Marigold

  • Salvia

  • Zinnia


  • Basil

  • Chives

  • Cilantro

  • Dill

  • Feverfew

  • Garlic Chives

  • Lavender

  • Lemon Balm

  • Lovage

  • Parsley

  • Rue

  • Rosemary

  • Sage

  • Mint

  • Thyme


  • Achillea  - Yarrow

  • Allium

  • Aster

  • Agastache foeniculum - Anise Hyssop

  • Artemesia sp. - Wormwood

  • Coreopsis - Tickseed

  • Echinacea purpurea - Purple Coneflower

  • Monarda  - Bergamot/Bee Balm

  • Penstemon s

  • Rudbeckia  - Black-Eyed Susan

  • Salvia

  • Solidago - Goldenrod

  • Veronica - speedwell

By incorporating these plants into your garden, you'll beautify your outdoor space and create a haven that attracts and sustains beneficial insects. Remember, a diverse and thriving ecosystem in your garden is a pleasure to witness and a testament to your commitment to sustainable gardening practices. Happy gardening!


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