Beneficial Insects for the Landscape

Watching bugs in your organic garden is like watching a soap opera. There are good bugs and bad bugs, drama queens, and sneaky culprits. Your garden is dripping with romance, excitement, and of course murder, on a daily basis - what a show! Ignoring most pests and occasionally spot-spraying them with soapy water is a smart approach for most homeowners. However, the real focus of keeping a landscape pest-free should be in retaining and supporting beneficial insects. This means using less chemical pesticides, which kill ALL insects, and utilizing a natural approach that is better for the environment.

Saving Beneficial Insects

Controlling the bad bugs without eliminating the good bugs is, without a doubt, the most important goal in organic garden pest management. Beneficial insects such as ladybugs, ground beetles, pirate bugs, green lacewings, aphid midges, damsel bugs, tachinid flies, hoverflies, mealybug destroyers, predatory mites, and braconid wasps are predators and will consume the bad bugs for you so that the landscape becomes “naturally managed” versus other more labor-intensive applications.

Tips to Prevent Landscape Pests

  1. Flowers -- Companion plant flowering plants around your garden beds that will attract the bad bugs and pull them away from your good plants. Research and plant companion plants such as dill, fennel, fernleaf yarrow, coriander, and parsley that function as hosts for beneficial insects such as praying mantis, lady bugs, green lacewings, hoverflies, and braconid wasps.
  2. Row covers -- Use floating row covers to prevent butterflies or moths from laying their eggs on your crops, creating an environment where caterpillars will consume the plants.
  3. Eyeball it -- Inspect your annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables for eggs and aphids regularly. Look closely at the stems and leaves. If you spot any bad bugs, build a plan immediately for their management.
  4. Know your soil – Having a strong organic soil with a lot of wonderful microbes and natural ingredients means that your landscape will be stronger. A strong plant means it is less likely to be attacked by a pest, but a weak plant is more likely to be attacked.

Additionally, selectively treating bugs like aphids can work. Spray aphids with a sharp spray from the garden hose and that is often enough to keep them off the plants. Handpick Japanese Beetles or other pests when spotted. Find bugs and spray them directly with soapy water to ensure they will be reduced in number.

For other smart solutions for landscapes and landscape design, check out the easy-to-use iScape app!