December 1, 2015

Attracting beneficial insects to your garden

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

As National Pollinator week comes to a close, I thought it fitting to do a post on planting gardens to attract the good guys; the garden guardians. These guys are the free workers in the garden. They do not need to be paid nor do they complain they just get on with their lives. What you can do is make their life comfortable so that the conditions are right for them to make your garden their home. I have to admit I am fascinated by insects. I often wonder how such small creatures can have amazing adaptations to escape predators, such strange mating rituals and how a few extra spots can make all the difference.

At school I make a big point to my students, not to kill anything without permission. It sounds fierce I know, but it is mainly referring to spiders and native bees that may actually be mistaken for flies. I always ask my students if they like mosquitos and flies and they usually say no, then I say well don’t kill the spiders as they help control the nasties.

I love the following saying ” Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.’ Bradley Millar

Some of the good guys
Ladybirds
In Australia there are over 400 species and they are not birds nor all ladies, go figure! Ladybirds as adults or larvae will help keep aphids, mealybugs and scale under control. But lady bird numbers can be hindered by ants so you must give ladybirds the chance to have power in numbers. The 28 spot ladybird is a pest that will dine on your vegetable plants.

Predatory Beetles
These are carnivorous beetles who will work overtime to keep pest numbers down. These include ground beetle, rover beetle and tiger beetle to name just a few.

Praying Mantids
These holy creatures eat many larger pests. As they can move their head up to 180 degrees they can track the movement of pray without having to move their body.

Bees
Between native and European bees there are thousands of species. All bees help with pollination, 90% of crops produced for our food rely on pollinators like bees for reproduction. Due to pesticide usage and land clearing bee populations are decreasing. Many of the native bees are stingless and love solitary lives, hence a backyard garden is the perfect place for them.

Top 5 plants to Include in your garden to attract the good guys.
1. Tansy

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Perennial herb that grows to 1 metre, deters flies but attracts other insects.

2. Borage

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Annual herb with edible leaves and flowers. Major bee attractant.

3. Calendula (Marigolds)marigold-2-1333739Low growing, bushy plant from the family of marigolds.

4. Nasturtiumsnasturtium-1406777Easy to grow annual producing edible leaves and flowers.

5. Lucerne

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Perennial legume that grows to one metre. Legumes are not only good for insects but also soil fertility as they fix Nitrogen in the soil.

Just today it was reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that non-bee pollinators such as beetles, flies, wasps and butterflies could provide insurance against decline in bee numbers.

Why not host some good bugs in your garden!

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