Integrated Pest Management – Bring beneficial insects to your Garden
Updated: Aug 17
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Thanks for stopping by to read the post on Beneficial insects for pest management in your garden. In this blogpost we cover Integrated Pest Management, Types of beneficial insects and how can you attract them to your home garden to take care of your garden pests
Click the link below to download our Freebie for 5 Easy to grow pollinator friendly flowers where we share tips on how to grow 5 different types of flowers that bring in the amazing pollinators into your garden! Hint: these flowers aren’t included in this blogpost :)
A healthy garden is a diverse one — with lots of different kinds of plants and flowers. Because diversity helps to create an environment that is less susceptible to pests and disease.
When you have a variety of flowers and plants in your garden, you're less likely to have problems with pests or diseases because there are other plants that can help deter pests from attacking your crops.
The more diverse the garden, the more resistant it will be to pest attacks and disease outbreaks.
The easiest way to build diversity into your garden is by planting flowers that attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs, honey bees and lacewings (more on them later), which are all known for their ability to eat pests such as aphids, mites and caterpillars. Planting these flowers will also reduce the amount of pesticides you need in order to control pest populations in your garden because they take care of most of the work themselves!
Thus, diversity is also essential for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) which relies on a combination of pest prevention, monitoring and resorting to natural pesticides only as the last resort. Since, a pest-free environment doesn't exist, but IPM practitioners can minimize the use of synthetic pesticides through healthy soils, water conservation and habitat management.
But, what is IPM?
Integrated pest management is the most environmentally responsible approach to pest control. It uses a variety of strategies which combine cultural, physical and biological methods to prevent pests from becoming established and spreading to other areas. IPM programs include monitoring, early detection, rapid response, and damage assessment.
The goal of IPM is to manage pest damage by using the minimum amount of pesticides necessary to prevent economic losses, while also reducing risks to human health and the environment.
A brief evolution of IPM –
IPM gained the attention of the world, when, in 1962, Rachel Carson brought to light the harms of pesticide use in her book, Silent Spring, and scientists began to look into it from an ecological perspective – and the term IPM was coined.
In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, set agricultural IPM as an international goal for program development. And since then after the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP), other international organizations like United Nation's Food and Agricultural Organization, United Nations Environment Program have provided support for IPM programs.
Switching to IPM from POP's is beneficial for numerous health and environmental reasons; Chemicals in pesticides cause cancer, reproductive issues like infertility, respiratory issues, etc, and environmental reasons like water, food contamination and soil degradation.
But you are wondering: how you can practice IPM in your home garden, right?
One of the ways to do so is by attracting beneficial insects and creating an insectary. Beneficial insects, also known as "good bugs" or "natural enemies," are those insects that perform a service for people. Because they eat other harmful pests, which helps protect your plants from infestations and reduce the need for chemical pesticides in your garden.
So, let's learn more about a few types of beneficial insects –
Photo of an adult ladybug
Ladybugs are easy to attract to your garden or landscape by planting lots of native plants, which will provide nectar and pollen for them. Their colors range from black to red or orange with spots or stripes. Ladybugs also have dome-shaped bodies and are about 1/4 inch long. Ladybug larvae look like black dots with orange spots running through them.
photo of ladybug larvae
Pests attacked – Ladybug larvae are voracious eaters of pests and eat aphids, scale insects, mealybugs and other soft-bodied pests. Adult ladybugs also feed on aphids, pollen and nectar from flowers. It is reported that during its lifetime a single ladybug will eat 5000 aphids!
Green lacewings –
The adult green lacewing is a delicate-looking creature with large, transparent wings that are tinted greenish-yellow. Green lacewing lay eggs in clusters on the underside of leaves or on stems. The eggs hatch into tiny green caterpillars called nymphs that look just like their adult counterparts except for their size and lack of wings.
Photo of golden eye lacewing
Pests attacked – Green lacewings are mainly predators, eating mealybugs, scale bugs, leafhoppers, whiteflies and other small pests. They can eat up to 1000 eggs or more per day! They also feed on nectar from flowers.
Eggs of a green lacewing
The larvae of green lacewings are voracious predators as well. They feed on aphids, mites, thrips and other small insects. The larvae consume prey by sucking out body fluids through special mouthparts called stylets. This is the most beneficial stage with lacewings.
Parasitic Wasps –
When people think of wasps, they think of mostly yellow jacket/paper wasps. However, there are many types of wasps and the ones you will to create a habitat for and invite into your garden are parasitic wasps. These wasps lay their eggs in other insects, such as caterpillars or even bees and other types of wasps. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the host insect until they are ready to pupate and emerge as an adult wasp. The adult wasp mainly feeds on nectar and pollen.
Pests attacked – Parasitic wasps are usually the most effective way to control pests, especially if there is a large infestation. For example, some species of parasitic wasp larvae attack caterpillars such as the cabbage looper and diamondback moth larvae.
Parasitic wasps are also useful for controlling other pests such as aphids, whitefly and thrips. These beneficial insects help gardeners by controlling crop-destroying pests without having to use harmful chemicals or pesticides on crops or plants.
Now that you know some of the beneficial insects, if you want to learn more, here is a resource from the government of British Columbia to help you learn more
Next, you need to acquire knowledge about the plants which attract these beneficial insects.
Hoverflies are true flies although they looks like wasps or small bees. They helicopter around plants, darting short distances and then hovering again. Hoverflies are known as syrphid flies, drone flies and flower flies. They are really cool to watch in the garden
Photo of an adult hoverfly. Easy to confuse this with a yellowjacket wasp or small bee
The adults feed on nectar as they pollinate flowers. The female hoverfly lays her cream-white coloured eggs near the aphid colonies and when the eggs hatch in 2-3 days, the larvae start feeding on aphids as soon as they hatch! After a few days of the feeding frenzy, the larvae will attach themselves to a stem and build a cocoon. The larvae stay inside the cocoon for 10 days during warm weather and longer when the weather is cool. Once the cocoon is broken, the adult hover flies emerge and begin the cycle all over again
Pests attacked: The larvae feed primarily on aphids but they will also east whiteflies, leafbeetle larvae and moth caterpillars
Plants/Flowers to attract beneficial insects for IPM
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a bountiful plant which has many health benefits as well as makes for an excellent ground cover to attract many beneficial insects. Yarrow is a perennial herb that grows from one to three feet tall, with soft yellow, pink or white flowers which have a flat-topped or dome cluster shape. She can be used in both flower beds and borders, or grown in containers on your patio. Make sure to grow her in pots or containers otherwise she can take over your garden beds!
Beneficial insects love yarrow because the plant produces nectar and pollen in abundance, which attracts bees and butterflies, but the leaves are also attractive to lacewings, ladybugs and other good guys. In addition, yarrow is unpalatable to pests and helps in controlling aphids, flea beetles and other pests in your garden because the good guys feed on these. This can also be corroborated through the study titled: Vineyard Evaluation of Five Beneficial Insect-Attracting Native Plant Ground Covers as a Strategy to Improve and Sustain IPM in Wine Grapes (Walla W.).
Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) is a beautiful and versatile flower that attracts beneficial insects! Buckwheat flowers are not only beautiful, they're also edible. The seeds are tiny, round, black and surrounded by a papery white shell. The plant grows wild in many parts of the world and has been used as a food source for thousands of years.
Photo of blooming buckwheat
She is not suitable for growing in the hot summer regions of Zone 7 or southward because it does not have enough heat tolerance to survive there. You can plant buckwheat as a cover crop in your garden, but you must plant it after all, the danger of frost has passed in spring and before any chance of frost arrives in fall.
Because she grows very quickly from seed, buckwheat is a hardy annual, is easy to care for once established and therefore a great choice for your home garden.
As mentioned above, Buckwheat attracts many beneficial insects such as lady beetles, minute pirate bugs, lace wings and hover flies (Syrphidae). This makes it a great choice for planting in your garden to help control pests like aphids, true bugs and whiteflies. For instance, a study found that planting it near your squash plants can help reduce insect pests.
Sweet Alyssum –
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is a low-growing, mat-forming annual that grows in a variety of soil types. It is also known as sweet alison, baby's breath and honey flower.
Alyssum is often considered a "wildflower" because it can reseed itself easily and fill in bare patches in your garden. Sweet alyssum has small white flowers with yellow centers. The flowers are very fragrant, which is one of the reasons bees love them. If you're looking for an all-around useful plant that will attract pollinators and safeguard your veggies from pests while providing an attractive visual treat, then alyssum is an excellent choice.
Photo of sweet alyssum
The flower attracts beneficial insects like ladybird beetles, hover flies, damsel bugs and parasitic wasps that prey on garden pests. Alyssum is one of the most frequently studied species in habitat management for predatory insects. One study found that when you intercrop lettuce with sweet alyssum, for every aphid found, there were 215 predatory insects to eat those pests!
For instance, a study conducted in North Florida found that sweet alyssum helped in reducing the population of green stink bug by attracting big-eyed bug (G. punctipes) which is one of the most serious pest problems in tomatoes in that region.
However if you are from California or Hawaii, alyssum is considered an invasive species, so grow blackfoot daisy or snow in summer instead to have similar benefits!
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is native to the Mediterranean region and has been cultivated there for so long that it is thought to have originated there. After the Crusades in the Middle Ages, fennel was carried to England and France and then to North America.
Photo of bee pollinating delicious yellow fennel flowers
Fennel, a member of the carrot family, is a perennial herb with a sweet, licorice-flavored bulb. The leaves have a similar taste and are popular in salads and soups. Fennel has slender, green, feathery leaves and yellow flowers. The seeds are used as a spice. It grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 to 10.
By planting fennel in your garden, you will be attracting ladybugs, lacewings, hover flies and a variety of other beneficial insects. These natural enemies are essential to keeping pests like stink bugs, aphids and mites under control in your garden. Research has proved its effectiveness – one study found fennel crop helped in controlling cotton aphid infestation by attracting spotless ladybird beetle and green lacewing which feed on the cotton aphids.
So DirtMagicians, that’s all about beneficial insects.
Moving on, IPM is a proactive ecological approach to minimize or eliminate the use of chemical pesticides in the home garden. With an IPM program, you can manage pests by taking action before you notice a problem rather than waiting until it reaches crisis level. Because bug problems should not be a mystery; bugs should respond to your actions.
And don’t forget- we have a fun freebie download for you - “ 5 Easy to grow pollinator friendly flowers” where we share tips on how to grow 5 different types of flowers that bring in the amazing pollinators and predatory beneficial insects into your garden! Hint: these flowers aren’t included in this blogpost :)
Until next time DirtMagicians!