Friends in the garden

It’s time to embrace an old idea Toronto gardeners! The world of beneficial insects – those little creatures that devour aphids, mealy bugs, slugs and any other creepy crawler that is chomping on your cherries.

The garden is a fascinating place – one of love and loss, survival and death. All of those dramas in the garden so intertwined with health of our gardens, and really, the health of earth. The emergence of chemical controls for weeds and garden pests has put our ecosystems out of balance. There is a very old idea, however, that can do amazing things for your garden without the use of chemical controls – beneficial insects. 

Beneficial insects are used commercially in greenhouses and fields as an alternative or complementary pest management. When I worked in a greenhouse we had a serious infestation of aphids. Ladybugs are a huge fan of aphids – one ladybug may eat as much as 5000 aphids in a lifetime.  We bought the ladybugs and released them into greenhouse – it took time but eventually the aphids were under control.

The use of beneficials actually has a long history. The first recorded use of beneficials was in 300 AD when predatory ants were used to control pests in citrus orchards. In the 1970s mealy bugs were accidently introduced in Africa – spreading over 15 countries. The mealy bug ravaged cassava crops until a parasitoid (a bug that uses its host to lay eggs in) was discover in Paraguay. The parasitoid was introduced and effectively controlled the mealy bug.

As a home gardener there are some great ways to attract helpful insects to your garden. Here are some top beneficials and some tips for attracting them to your garden:

Three stages of ladybug growth - note the larvae stage on the left and pupa stage in the center! Those little fellas will eat heaps of aphids!  Plant angelica, coreopsis, dill, fennel, and yarrow to attract them. Photo by Malevda.

Three stages of ladybug growth - note the larvae stage on the left and pupa stage in the center! Those little fellas will eat heaps of aphids!  Plant angelica, coreopsis, dill, fennel, and yarrow to attract them. Photo by Malevda.

"Tachinid fly larvae burrow their way into many caterpillars, destroying these garden pests from the inside. Plant dill, parsley, sweet clover, and other herbs to attract adult flies" Organic Gardener.  Photo by S. Rae  

"Tachinid fly larvae burrow their way into many caterpillars, destroying these garden pests from the inside. Plant dill, parsley, sweet clover, and other herbs to attract adult flies" Organic Gardener.  Photo by S. Rae

 

"Both adult lacewings and their larvae eat aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, scales, thrips, and whiteflies. Angelica, coreopsis,cosmos, and sweet alyssum will bring lacewings to your garden" Organic Gardener. Photo by nutmeg66  

"Both adult lacewings and their larvae eat aphids, caterpillars, mealybugs, scales, thrips, and whiteflies. Angelica, coreopsis,cosmos, and sweet alyssum will bring lacewings to your garden" Organic Gardener. Photo by nutmeg66

 

These are just three examples of helpful insects - plant a garden that is diverse and provides shelter for friends in the garden and you will have a healthy and vibrant garden. 

Posted on July 15, 2014 .