Attracting Beneficial Insects to Your Garden

Minute pirate bug (Orius sp.) is a predator that feeds on aphids, thrips and whiteflies.

Minute pirate bug (Orius sp.) is a predator that feeds on aphids, thrips and whiteflies.

Every year gardeners lose numerous plants to insect pests. However, there are practices a gardener can employ to decrease pest pressure.  Nature has natural enemies and their diet consists of the pests that ravage your tomatoes, cucumbers and begonias.

Start with good horticultural practices in your garden. Prepare the planting site properly. Start with healthy plants. A stressed plant is a vulnerable plant so maintain the proper moisture and fertility. Use mulch to conserve water, reduce the weed population and to help improve the soil.

A diversified planting will also help to attract not only beneficial insects but also butterflies. Finding the right balance of plant material is important for a successful garden. In order to attract beneficials you need to have flowers available to keep them happy. They provide carbohydrates and protein to the beneficial insects when pest populations are low. The flowers supply nectar, which contains carbohydrates, and pollen supplies protein. The foliage on the plants provides protection from heat, rain and other insects. Many annuals and perennials are good attractors.  See the list below of some annuals and perennials, there are many others that will also attract beneficials.

Annuals Perennials
Sunflower Coreopsis
Verbena Echinacea
Lobularia or Alyssum Gaillardia
Marigold Rudbeckia
Zinnia Salvia
Zinnias are an excellent annual to have in the garden since they are constantly flowering, providing a source of pollen for the beneficial insects.

Zinnias are an excellent annual to have in the garden since they are constantly flowering, providing a source of pollen for the beneficial insects.

Most beneficial insects fall into one of two categories, predators and parasitoids. A predator attacks, kills and feeds on its prey. In most cases, predators are generalists and will attack multiple species. Parasitoids are more particular, and considered specialists. They will only attack specific species. Parasitoids will first parasitize their prey, and then lay an egg in the host. See the list below of some predators and parasitoids that we have found in Harris County.

Predators Parasitoids
Green Lacewing Aphidius sp.
Minute Pirate Bug Diglyphus sp.
Long Legged Fly
Milkweed Assassin Bug
Green lacewing (Chrysopa sp.) the larval stage is an aggressive predator that does an excellent job in controlling aphids.

Green lacewing (Chrysopa sp.) the larval stage is an aggressive predator that does an excellent job in controlling aphids.

In upcoming blog posts, we will look at some of the beneficial insects in further detail.

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