When you grow vegetables, you want to keep pesky pests away from your crop. That’s why it’s important that you know how to attract beneficial insects to your vegetable garden.
Any gardener wants to make sure that their plants are not weakened or even destroyed by pests. While there are commercially available pesticides, these could potentially harm other wildlife.
I also don’t like the idea of using pesticides on my vegetable plants, given that my family and I will eat the crops.
That’s why I prefer a more organic way to keep pests under control, which is encouraging beneficial insects that will predate on pest insects.
And in this article, I will tell you how to attract beneficial insects to your vegetable garden to help you keep pests in check.
How Beneficial Insects Can Help You Grow Vegetables Successfully
You might be aware that there are insects that are good for your garden, but maybe you are not sure which ones and why.
There are two types of insects that can be beneficial in your garden: pollinators and predatory insects that eat pests.
Beneficial Insects As Pest Control
If you are new to gardening, or have always used pesticides, you might ask how beneficial insects could help with keeping pests down.
And to know this is an important step before you can look at how to attract beneficial insects to your vegetable garden.
Most pest insects, such as aphids, mites and caterpillars, are prey for a variety of other insects. So if you have these good creatures in the garden, they will eat the pests and thereby keep your veggies safe, so they can give you a good yield.
That’s why these insects are considered gardeners’ best friends. They include:
- Parasitic wasps
- Ground beetles
- Rove beetles
- Soldier beetles
- Minute pirate bugs
All of these will eat a variety of different garden enemies, such as aphids, caterpillars, mites, slugs and other pesky pests.
Some in their adult life, others as larvae, some in both forms. For example, the lacewing larva will eat over 100 aphids a week and the adult lacewings will eat them too.
Ladybirds also eat aphids in their larva form as well as adults. In adult form, they eat 50 aphids a day and as larvae quite a bit more.
So as you can see, by attracting beneficial insects to your garden, you can keep pests under control in a natural way without using pesticides that will harm any creatures that come in contact with them.
Apart from pest control, beneficial insects also include many pollinators, including bees, moths and butterflies.
And pollinators are of the utmost importance, given that experts think that over 80% of plants that produce crops in the world need to be pollinated to do so.
This also includes vegetables and fruits that you will grow in your garden, including:
So as you can see, you need a good army of pollinators in your garden to get the crops you want. That’s why it’s important to know how to attract beneficial insects to pollinate your crops.
And having these insects in your garden will attract other useful wildlife, such as hedgehogs and birds, who will also eat some pests, such as caterpillars and slugs and snails.
The more divers the wildlife in your garden is, the better the balance. This means that while you might get pests, you will also have their predators.
And it will also help our planet.
How To Attract Beneficial Insects The Easy Way?
Now that we know why we need these insect helpers in our garden, let’s look at how to attract beneficial insects.
You have probably heard the saying “If you build it, they will come”. And it’s as simple as that. If you provide these insects with what they need, they will come.
So you have to ensure that you provide them with food for them and their young and shelter.
Let’s start by having a look at how to attract beneficial insects with food.
Most beneficial insects will drink nectar, as well as eat pest insects. So if you plant the right flowers in your garden, you will get the right insect helpers.
Here is a list of plants that will attract a variety of predatory insects, including lacewing, ladybird and hoverflies, the aphid eaters:
- evening primrose
- lemon balm
You don’t want just one species though, instead plant as many as you can either in beds or pots. This will not only attract beneficial insects, but the flowers will look gorgeous.
You can put these flowers in your borders, beds or even in pots and dot them around your garden. Even window boxes will do the job.
If you have a bigger garden, then you might want to create a little wildflower meadow. This is what we did, as it attracts so many insect species and looks amazing.
It was hard work, as we decided to give quite a big area of our garden over to the flower meadow, but was definitely worth it. If you want to create your own wildflower meadow here is what we did:
To do it right, you have to dig out any grass that’s on the patch you want to grow your wildflower meadow on. The best time to do this is autumn.
Then dig over the soil and get rid of as many weeds as you can. We had quite a job on our hands with the dandelions, as they have very deep roots.
Once your soil is weed free and raked through, sow your wildflower mix. You want to make sure that it contains only UK native wildflowers, as these will work best in attracting beneficial insects.
We bought our wildflower seed mix from a place called Naturescape, which offers a range of wildflower seed mixes. We used a mix of wildflower and grass seed mix, and we now have a stunning wildflower meadow, even though it’s only a year old.
Once you have sown your seeds, press them into the soil by walking over them. They need to have good contact with the soil.
To protect your seeds from being eaten by hungry birds, cover your meadow with netting. Leave this netting on until spring, when things start to germinate.
But keep an eye on the net in case a bird gets caught in it. We had to save a nosy robin and black bird during the winter.
In spring, you should start to see the soil come to life. First grass will sprout. If you use our method, you want a wildflower seed mix that contains grass seeds, as it’s not a wildflower meadow without grass.
But your seed mix should also contain yellow rattle, which is a semi-parasitic plant feeding off grass. So these beautiful little yellow flowers will keep the grass under control.
Keep the grass short to give the flowers chance to germinate. Soon you will see all sorts of plants emerge.
We had to remove a lot of dandelions again at this point to ensure they wouldn’t take over.
After that, we didn’t do anything anymore, just let the plants do their thing and attract all these beneficial insects.
In the next autumn, once most of the flowers have set seed, we took the scythe to our wild flowers. It is much better for wildlife to scythe a wildflower meadow, rather than use a lawn mower.
And while it’s hard work, it’s also a lot of fun. And depending on how big your meadow is, it won’t take that long.
Keep the cut down flowers on the ground for several days to allow the seeds to drop on the soil. This will ensure that the flower will come back in the next spring, as many wild flowers are annuals.
A wildflower meadow will provide food for beneficial insects when they are adults as well as for their young.
Beneficial insects such as the ground beetle eat slugs and snails, so as long as you have these in the garden, and who hasn’t, they will come.
But you want them to make their home in your garden, so that they also reproduce, and their young continue to eat pests.
So the next step in our guide about how to attract beneficial insects to your garden is to provide them with shelter.
Log piles, compost heaps and leaf piles make great shelters for a variety of beneficial insects, including the ground beetle and the rove beetle.
And a log pile does not have to look untidy. You could make a feature out of it. So it could be a really nice addition to your garden, but at the same time it will also provide ground beetles with a great place to hide away during the day.
So they are ready to come out at night and hunt their favourite prey, slugs and snails.
Another way to provide shelter for a wide range of beneficial insects is to leave a small part (or a big one if you want) wild.
This means you just let it grow as it wants. We have given over a nice big part of our garden to go wild. The good thing about it is that it will be low maintenance too.
I do scythe this area once a year to keep it from overgrowing too much and taking over the whole garden. To make sure wildlife always has a safe refuge, I cut down one half of this wild patch in spring and the other half in autumn.
And we know that a lot of insects, mammals and birds benefit from this area, which is great.
But there are other ways to provide shelter for beneficial insects too.
You could hang up a bug hotel in your garden. We bought one, and it was surprising how quickly it was used.
It has different sections that cater for different insects, such as butterflies, ladybirds, solidary bees and crickets.
- 🦋 HELP YOUR GARDEN: Insects help to pollinate the plants in your garden and the more you have the healthier your garden will be. So give them a home they can be proud of.
- 🎁 GREAT GIFT: The plain bug house comes in a beautifully designed gift box, so it is a great present for many occasions such as mother’s day, father’s day, birthday presents, Christmas and even just to cheer someone up.
- 🐞 ECO-FRIENDLY: Natural materials are the main feature from the wood used to make the hotel to the bamboo and pine cones inside.
By attracting all these helpful insects you will also start to attract birds and mammals, such as hedgehogs, which is great.
Many birds, while eating mostly seeds themselves, feed insects, especially caterpillars, to their young.
Blue tits for example only feed caterpillars to their young, so having these lovely little birds nesting in your garden is definitely a great thing.
And to encourage them to do so, all you have to do is put up a bird box.
This one is especially made for blue tits, as it mimics their natural habitat in a tree trunk.
- The natural log bluetit box is a hollowed out log complete with bark intact and a small entrance hole ideal for the BlueTit and other small hole nesting species. The appearance of the natural product may vary but is ideal for a garden or woodland setting.
- The natural air dried FSC wooden logs has low thermal conductivity providing excellent insulation for nesting birds.
- The wood is beautifully pale in colour and the bark is a mottled brown colour. It is remarkably light and strong and resistant to cracking and splitting.
Top Tip: Unlike other birds, blue tits look for nesting sites quite late, so if you put up your next box in February, you are more likely to attract them.
That’s what we did, and we had a pair of blue tits nesting in it straight away, which was just brilliant.
My guide about how to attract beneficial insects to your garden wouldn’t be complete without a section about a pond.
Did you know that a pond is the best feature you can have in your garden to attract wildlife?
Not only do many beneficial insects, such as some hoverfly species and dragonflies and damselflies need water to reproduce, a pond will also be used by many birds and mammals, such as hedgehogs.
And insects benefit too, especially in summer when they are looking for a drink. Wasps and bees just love our pond.
You don’t have to build a big pond, a small one will do. You can use an old washing up bowl or anything that is water tight, that you can sink into the ground.
Add a few pond plants and stones, and you have your very own wildlife pond. Suitable plants can be bought online very easily.
- Ideal for Allotment ponds or small garden wildlife ponds this pack contains four bare rooted pond plants wet packed and ready for planting with four 11cm aquatic containers
- Ideal for encouraging biological slug controls Frogs and Toads to the allotment plot
- Quality seasonal mix of marginal and oxygenating pond plants
If you have more space and want a bigger pond, the Wildlife Trust has a lot of information to help you to create one.
We love our pond and spend a lot of time just watching the hive of activity in it. And you will be surprised how quickly you will see wildlife populating it.
We dug ours in autumn and even though the plants were not yet fully established, within weeks we saw little creatures swimming in it.
So now that you know how to attract beneficial insects to your garden, have a go and see how they can help you to grow your veggies. Happy Growing!