How To Attract Beneficial Insects and Animals To Your Garden

Attract insects and animals that benefit the healthy life and ecosystem of your garden by learning humane pest control methods.

  • viburnum blue muffin
    Viburnum 'Blue Muffin' is a great foundation plant that provides nectar to pollinators and food for birds with its ripe berries.
    Photo by Getty/nickpo
  • viburnum berries
    These berries of the viburnum 'Blue Muffin' plant are a perfect food source for birds in your garden.
    Photo by Getty/seven75
  • book cover
    “The Guide to Humane Critter Control: Natural, Nontoxic Pest Solutions to Protect Your Yard and Garden” is a guide to understanding and handling pests that appear in your garden in a humane and natural way. Instead of killing or destroying the pests readers can learn ways to deter them and mitigate or prevent damage that may be done to their gardens.
    Cover courtesy Cool Springs Press

  • viburnum blue muffin
  • viburnum berries
  • book cover

The Guide to Humane Critter Control: Natural, Nontoxic Pest Solutions to Protect Your Yard and Garden (Cool Springs Press, 2017) by Theresa Rooney is a different approach to handling the pest in your garden in a humane and natural way.  This book encourages readers to try alternative methods to killing or destroying pests such as deterring them or preventing the damage they might do in a garden.  By introducing new techniques for dealing with garden pests, animal and insect populations do not decrease and the natural balance remains healthy between all species.  Learning which plants, insects, and gardening products are safe and can coexist the best together leads to a successful garden that effectively takes care of itself.

Attracting Beneficial Insects and Animals

I expect my plants to do most if not all the work for me. I expect all my plants to fulfill two or three functions, or even more. That is called stacking functions in the view of permaculture. In my yard, I grow a smaller viburnum, ‘Blue Muffin’. This plant is to be a foundation plant, provide nectar to pollinators as it blooms and food for birds with its ripe berries. For years this plant was infested by aphids. The stress was so great that the flowers would abort and no fruit would be growing. I never let the aphid population reach a critical level to attract predator insects like ladybugs. One year I decided to just wait. Sure enough, when I allowed the aphids to reach that population, the ladybugs came, laid eggs, and the adults and larvae ate the aphids. This would not have happened if I had killed the aphid population. But now I have a ladybug population in my garden and they can move from plant to plant and eat aphids as the aphids appear.

By not interfering or even adding anything as simple as insecticidal soap, we can set up our landscapes to be more self-sufficient. We need to build safe places for our predators to grow and multiply so that they can take care of pests for us.

We can make our gardens very attractive to beneficial bugs by doing just a few easy things. Avoid pesticides, don’t use pesticides at all if you can. If you must use a pesticide, use it early in the morning before pollinators are flying and many bugs are moving. That way you have a better chance of targeting the desired insect and less chance of hurting the innocent or desired bugs. Again, I remind you to read, understand, and follow all label instructions on any pesticide you use.

There are many alternatives to consider before resorting to petroleum based chemicals. Repellents that use fragrance may work to disguise a targeted plant from a pest, or you could use a barrier to bar access. Hot pepper or bad-tasting “repellents” may work for many insects — one bite and they are away. Water sprayed on pests can remove them. Insecticidal soaps, while still chemicals, may be less impactful on your outdoor spaces. Handpicking is always an option — if the insects are large enough. So often, if we see the problem early or even anticipate it, we can avoid using pesticides — and we keep our outdoor spaces safer and save money too. Let the Pest attract the predators another way we can attract those beneficial bugs to our yards is to let the bad bug populations increase enough to entice the good bugs to set up residence in our garden. It may be hard to watch the bad bug population grow and just hope the good bugs show up. But, if you never allow the bad bug population to grow, the good bugs will not show up or stay. Think of it like this: If a ladybug is looking to lay her eggs, which area will she choose? A desert of a place with no food or a garden filled with possibilities of fat aphids and other soft-bodied insects? She will, of course, choose the garden filled with insects for her young to eat.

Usually, if you have a healthy garden environment, allowing the pests to reach that critical level is all you need to do — the predators will come. If, however, your garden is a sterile environment or a monoculture of only one plant (or very few), you may find that this is not the case. There is no place for them, only a place for their food — your pest. To address this, you can take the place of the predator and remove the pest, or you can begin to make your yard more diverse and healthy. It will take time and effort, but you will build a healthy outdoor space where nature will do the harder work and you can have more fun.

11/10/2018 1:32:11 AM

Grasshoppers are eaten by birds, and if you have a flock they will love them.

11/9/2018 7:17:31 AM

How about grasshoppers I can't kill them I have them like the plaque. I live on 36acres and have bee hives so I cant spray and prefer not to spray even If I didn't have bees.

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