Inviting Beneficial Insects

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Question: How can we attract beneficial insects into our garden?

Answer: If you create a garden that offers food, shelter, and nesting sites that beneficial insects need, they'll beat a path to your oasis. Use these strategies:

1. Ensure biodiversity. It is key to a healthy garden ecosystem. Pests tend to flourish in a simple environment (one featuring few plant types, for instance.) By increasing the diversity of plants, you will attract a range of predators, parasites, and pollinators who will keep problem insects in check.

2. Don't use pesticides and herbicides. "Do-good" insects and their food sources can be harmed and a healthy balance of pests and predators thrown askew when these are broadly used.

3. Use native plants, when possible. They are well adapted to local growing conditions and they provide nectar and pollen for native insects.

4. Grow a variety of plant types. This includes pollen- and nectar-producing plants of different heights and colors that flower at different times. Some plants nourish different insect life cycle stages. Here are a few good plants for enticing and sustaining pest control partners: cosmos, goldenrod, nasturtium, tansy, Queen Anne's lace, sunflower, yarrow, dill, caraway, fennel, lemon balm, thyme.

5. Provide water and nesting sites. Challenge youngsters to figure out how to provide shallow pools of water. To encourage bees and other pollinatores to nest nearby, leave cut plant stems exposed, turn flowerpots with bottom holes upside down, and leave twigs and brush in small piles.

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