Melody is a CDC volunteer with a passion for gardening and growing healthy food for consumption. She enjoys sharing her personal experience.
Which Insects Are Good for a Garden?
Most insects and spiders are considered pests from a human point of view. It is an extraordinary idea that they can be useful to the plants in your garden.
Even though creepy crawlies sometimes seem dreadful, they are a cog in a larger ecosystem. Even though most people hate bugs, some insects and spiders have useful features that can help keep your yard and garden healthy.
Insects are members of a vibrant community of organisms that collaborate to create unique homeostasis. There are many beneficial insects that may change the way you garden. When plants and insects work together, you may even be able to avoid using pesticides.
Bugs that are good for plants fall into three distinct categories: pollinators, predators, and parasitoids. They each have their own special mechanism that works to protect plants from harmful insects and, in some cases, bacteria or fungi.
Insects and Spiders That Are Beneficial to Plants
Western predatory mite
Phytoseiulus persimilis mite
Reduviidae (assassin) bug
Encarsia formosa wasp
Amblyseius cucumeris mite
Aphid (Gall) midge
Anthocoridae (pirate bug)
Spined soldier bug
Buying or Attracting Insects and Spiders
Now that you know the good that some insects can do for your garden, you might be wondering how to get them to your plants. You can either attract them by planting specific plants, or you can buy the bugs in their egg or larval stages.
This can be a difficult choice to make. Buying bugs for your plants require less effort than attracting them. However, attracting bugs that are natural to your ecosystem prevents introducing non-native species.
If you do choose to buy them then make sure that you do not introduce an invasive species to your yard. This can create an adverse domino effect that can cripple whole ecosystems.
Be wary if you choose to buy them online, you could get scammed or bring in a non-native species.
If you study your local bugs you can take specific measures to put their features to work for you. It can be very rewarding to attempt to attract certain species and see them show up during their season.
Where to Buy Insects and Spiders for the Garden
It used to be very difficult to obtain insects. However, thanks to the internet it is much easier to find vendors who have the bug that you need. Not all vendors are legit, even the bug market has its dishonest lot.
Some pests can be purchased online, where others can only be purchased in their egg or larval stages. Bugs' lifespan can be rather short, so even eggs and larvae mature rather quickly. Usually within two weeks.
Reputable Stores Where You Can Buy Bugs for Your Garden
- Whatever Works: Website and catalog vendor sold under the Potpourri Group Inc. (PGI). Located in North Billerica, Massachusetts.
- Arbico Organics: Website and retail store produced by Arizona Biological Control, Inc. Located in Oro Valley, Arizona.
- Amazon Prime: Amazon prime product purchases give added security for the buyer. Amazon only allows vendors who meet specific requirements to sell bugs on their site.
- Carolina Biological: Education and scientific supplier and web vendor located in Burlington, North Carolina.
Attracting Native Insects
Attracting native insects that are beneficial for your garden may take more effort and time, but it is also rewarding and potentially safer for your local ecosystem. The best way to get a specific insect or spider to your garden is to target their physiology. Find out what it is they seek or eat, provide them shelter, and make changes to your garden.
- Use lights to attract them. Beneficial spiders tend to make their webs around outdoor lights. To attract them you can place solar lights around the target area. These are easily found at superstores and hardware stores such as Walmart or Home Depot.
- Plant friendly plants to feed them. Other bugs can be attracted by planting plants that are a part of the insect's diet. The ladybug tends to be drawn to high-pollen plants with strong scents and colorful flowers.
- Avoid pesticides. Some bugs, such as the lacewing, are very sensitive to pesticides. If you want to attract them then you have to commit to a chemical-free garden. Instead, you want to simulate a staple of their diet, honeydew. A simple spray of sugar water will do the trick.
- Plant flowers. Bees are pollinators who especially love flowers. Even if you are growing vegetables or decorative plants, you can plant colorful, single petal flowers, that bees will swarm to quickly. The trick is to make sure that you have different types of plants that will take turns blooming through the entire season. If there are no flowers, bees might not come to your yard.
Use Other Pesticide Alternatives
Attracting insects and spiders is only one of many ways to avoid using pesticides in on your lawn or in your garden. There are many alternatives that vary in price. The simplest way to protect plants is to use row covers and netting. This prevents creatures from getting to your plants altogether.
The downside of using row covers is that it drops the visual appeal of the area. If that is a concern then organic pest control methods may be the best way to keep pests away from your greenery.
Those with more land and a water source may even consider getting ducks or chickens to mind the garden. They are relatively harmless to plants but do eat many types of harmful insects.
No matter which method you choose, it is possible to have healthy, thriving plants without using chemicals on your property. With the recent rise of pesticide-related cancers, it is important to consider all your options. Using insects to fight insects is a holistic way to avoid using pesticides.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Melody Collins
Louise89 on August 05, 2019:
Great info! Thank you!
Mary Wickison from Brazil on October 15, 2017:
Interesting article. We have an organic coconut farm in Brazil and agree with a natural system for pest control.
When you stop to look at the role each insect plays, Mother Nature has a balance. It is only humans who have caused it to become unbalanced.
Although I don't like wasps, I have seen them taking caterpillars off my bougainvillaea to put in their nests. Predator insects and birds are the best at pest control.