By Ashley Hardway
Maintaining an organic garden can be easy if you ally yourself with nature instead of chemically spraying down your plants. In order to promote growth of a healthy plant, getting rid of pest insects can be as simple as sending in your own army of insects. Using the circle of life, you can help create an environment that is both healthy for you and your plants. What insects can prove to be a benefit for your garden?
1. Praying Mantis – This long-legged insect will eat a wide variety of destructive bugs ranging from grasshoppers to wasps. In fact, there aren’t many species that a mantis won’t eat. As long as the mantis feels safe in its environment, it will nest and produce offspring that can protect the garden from a myriad of infesting insects. Just don’t be disturbed if you come across a beheaded mantis body – females decapitate the males after breeding.
2. Funneling Spiders – Although spiders are not technically insects (they’re arachnids), they do a brilliant job of keeping down insect populations in your garden. If you see a funnel web, leave it be. The spider residing within is hunting your garden for insect prey. Although they may give you the “creepy crawlies,” spiders can do a great job of controlling the unwanted insect population.
3. Ladybugs – If your garden is infested with aphids, lady bugs can help reduce the damage these little insects can cause. In fact, you may already see these little helpers flying about. In some areas, it’s common to see hundreds of lady bugs in a single locale as they enjoy a feast of aphids on plants such as sunflowers.
4. Damsel Bugs – These little brown winged creatures can be found nesting in alfalfa fields. They consume aphids, smaller caterpillars, thrips and a variety of other small, plant-damaging bugs. Adding or attracting them to your garden can help keep many insects at bay. The University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences recommends planting a collection of herbs such as dill, fennel, lavender, coriander, or chamomille to attract damsel bugs for shelter and food.
5. Lacewings – If you live in a rural area, these little green bugs can seem to find any open coffee cup and dive right in. While your beverage may not do anything for your appetite of lacewings, a long list of other edible bugs are on their menu. Aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, whiteflies and more are the food of choice and flowers such as sweet alyssum can attract them to your garden.
6. Ground Beetles – The larvae of ground beetles feed on a variety of creatures that damage your plants from the ground up. They will eat slugs, maggots, cutworms and a variety of other insects that cause damage to the roots of your garden plants. Some subspecies will also hunt for caterpillars and other insect eggs.
7. Soldier Beetles – These beetles will feed on a long list of insects – those which damage your plants and those which are beneficial. If all else fails, the soldier beetle could be your endgame plan for the unwanted bugs in your garden.
Instead of letting loose with the pesticides, adding and attracting beneficial insects can protect the flowers, vegetables, fruit, and other plants in your garden. Some of these creatures need encouragement in order to be attracted while others may do so simply because of the buffet that is available. Use the power of nature to help protect your garden.
Always curious, Ashley Hardway is constantly learning and passionate about sharing what she learns with others. Based in the Houston, Texas office of Morningside Nannies, she loves to help families grow stronger, help their environments and communities, and keep moving forward! Check out @NannyLady on Twitter to connect and find out more.