About the SFMGA

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bug Me!

Beneficial Insects in the Yard and Garden

Did you know that fewer than 10% of insects cause damage to gardens? The remaining 90% of insects are either helpful or at least non-destructive. People often spend money and time on broad spectrum insecticides, which kill all the insects in their yards and gardens. Only later do they discover that they have destroyed the very insects that were helping the garden. These beneficial insects serve a number of different functions.

  • They help in the production of fruits, vegetables, and flowers by pollinating the blossoms.
  • Parasitic insects destroy other harmful insects by living on or in their bodies and their eggs.
  • Insect predators capture and devour other insects.
  • Scavenging insects eat the bodies of dead animals and plants and bury carcasses and dung.

A few beneficial insects to watch for in the garden include

  • assassin bugs that eat caterpillar pests
  • bees, butterflies, and moths that pollinate flowers, fruits, and vegetables
  • centipedes that eat slugs, snails, and ground beetles
  • green lacewings that eat aphids
  • praying mantids that feed on aphids, flies, beetles, and grasshoppers


Rodale's All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Fern Marshall Bradley, Rodale Press, 1993

Gardens with a wide variety of nectar producing plants attract beneficial insects. Ideally, a garden should have plants in continuous bloom for as long as possible. A thick layer of mulch around plants not only retains moisture and controls weeds, but also provides shelter for some of the most valuable insect predators. Providing beneficial insects with food and shelter increases their numbers and provides plenty of organic insect control for the garden's ecosystem.

Growing plants that attract beneficial insects helps create a balance in the garden. Certain plant families, like carrot, and sunflower, along with nectar-producing flowers, are particularly enticing to beneficial insects. Good plants to grow in the garden or yard to lure beneficial insects and keep them happy include:

bee balmcoreopsisgoldenrodsunflower
cloverevening primroseparseyyarrow

This article provided courtesy of the Fayette County Master Gardeners, Lexington, KY