How to: Attract Beneficial Insects
Help tip the scales in the garden war between the good bugs and the bad guys.
Plant flowers that attract beneficial insects such as lacewings, hoverflies, parasitic wasps and ladybirds.
The humble ladybird is just one of many beneficial insects ready to help in your garden for free! Photo - Robin Powell
Glowing lime fennel flowers not only look pretty but attract ladybirds. A ladybird only lives for a year but in that time devours an average of 5000 aphids. Do that maths, and it’s clear that by leaving some fennel plants to flower and seed you will bring balance to your patch and negate the need for many sprays. Fennel likes full sun, grows to 1m, flowers in summer and seeds into autumn. Allow the seeds to dry, then collect them to re-sow.
The pretty cushiony heads of yarrow, Achillea, are terrific fillers in a cottage garden. They come in a range of colours, including pink, lemon and white and grow to about 75cm. The foliage is delicate, feathery and fern-like. The flowers start in summer and continue into autumn. They are attractive to hoverflies. Hoverflies are green and brown and look a bit like wasps but do not bite or sting. You’ll see them in garden in warm weather, hovering almost motionless in the air. They suck on aphids and lay eggs amid aphid colonies so that when the soft larvae emerge they are surrounded by food.
Forgot to pick the carrots? Excellent! Carrot, parsnip and parsley attract beneficial insects to the umbellifer shaped ‘plate’ of flowers at the top of each flowering stem. Ladybirds arrive for the flowers and stay to snack on aphids; junior and adults lacewings and hoverflies add mealy bug, scale and mites to their menu.
Fill gaps and crevices with honey-perfumed, low-growing sweet Alice, which will flower through the entire season in white or mauve. Its flowers are attractive to honeybees and native bees, which help in pollinating cucumbers, eggplant and pumpkin.