Beneficial insects are the workforce of many successful gardens and crop production areas. They will pollinate flowers, enabling fruit and vegetables to develop, ensure seed production and that the cycle of life continues. They also, in many cases, devour pests of your ornamental plants and vegetables such as aphids. Many beneficial insects also help attract larger predators to the garden who will keep down non-insect pests such as slugs and snails as well as insects.
So, how do you attract these workers into your garden? The key is to use plants which attract beneficial insects. To do this, they need to offer a food source, either in the form of nectar or a supply of other insects which the beneficial ones feed on like aphids. They may also provide shelter and places for the insects to lay their eggs and produce their young.
Nettles can be of enormous benefit to a garden and will attract insects which pollinate your plants as well as eat pests such as hoverflies, butterflies and bees. They can become a weed themselves so growing a stand of nettles with a physical barrier around the roots to prevent them spreading or in a pot is the way to introduce them to your site without them being a pest themselves.
Plants which offer nectar sources will attract bees, butterflies and other insects which pollinate your plants. You do not want to attract butterflies whose larva eat your crops and, for this reason, plants such as Buddliea davidii, Virbunum tinus and Pyracantha are good because they attract species of butterflies but not cabbage white, whose larva do a lot of damage.
Many plants that attract beneficial insects can be used as companion plants in the vegetable garden. Companion plants are those which attract natural predators of pests like aphids, which will ruin many crops including beans and brassicas if left incontrolled.
Tagetes attract hoverflies who lay their eggs on the plants. In turn, the larva eat aphids and will help control populations on your vegetables. An extra bonus is that tagetes make a very lovely display with their yellow and orange flowers so they can be used in design when growing vegetables in your garden.
Seed heads of some plants can be left to attract spiders. These catch and eat flies and aphids which can be pests in the garden. The added benefit is that they look wonderful with frost on them and feed birds so you can leave the seed heads on until well into winter.
Lavender attracts many beneficial insects like bees who will not only visit the lavender but also many other plants in the garden and pollinate them so you get a rich crop of fruit, vegetables and seeds of flowering plants.
Using insects to help in the garden provides a means of controlling many pests, bringing other benefits to the gardena nd reducing the amount of chemicals we need to use. Choose carefully so you have nectar rich plants from srping until autumn. Later plants which flower in autumn and attract beneficial insects include sedums, with their deep purple spreading heads. Most of all, enjoy.