Beneficial Insects Make for Organic Pest Control
Another Reason to Say No to Chemicals in Your Garden
After four years of research, Rachel Carson brought the devastating side effects of wholesale use of the pesticide DDT to light with the 1962 publication of her environmental science book, Silent Spring. Because of challenges by U.S. chemical companies, it took nearly 10 years to ban the dangerous chemical that was decimating the wild bird population. Thanks to Carson’s work, the modern environmental movement was born—including the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency under Republican Richard M. Nixon in 1970.
Fifty years later, people are still arguing about the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides in both commercial and residential farming and landscaping. Those of us who prefer to keep our homegrown vegetables and flower gardens chemical free can look to nature to assist us in controlling pests.
Chemicals don’t discriminate against only the destructive bugs like cabbage moths and aphids, they kill the good ones, like bees, ladybugs, lacewing and praying mantis, too. By making a yard that is friendly to these desirable bugs, the backyard gardener can keep their vegetation relatively pest free.
Few things can compare with biting into a stalk of lightly steamed broccoli, only to discover it peppered with aphids. My 10-year-old swore off the healthy veggie—one of her staples—for nearly a year after one particularly buggy summer. Luckily the delightful ladybug loves to snack on aphids. It’s easy to encourage them and other predatory insects like the praying mantis to visit your garden by following these simple tips:
- Grow plants they like such as cosmos, marigolds and raspberries, as well as fennel and borage.
- Provide a shallow source of water. See my post on attracting bees for an attractive option.
- Plant ground covers to provide protection from predators and shade to escape the heat of the day.
- Learn to recognize the ladybug in its stages of development so you don’t eradicate them accidentally. This is especially fun to do with children!
If your garden is already overrun by aphids and other pests, you can purchase live lady bugs at some local garden centers. If they’re not available in your area, you can order them online. Planet Natural is my go-to source for ladybugs and other beneficial insects. It’s important to order at the right time of year though. We once had an egg sack of over 100 teensy praying mantises hatch in our basement because the weather had been too cold and wet to put it out in the garden. We managed to get most of them outside, but it was quite the chore to round them up!
To keep those good bugs in your yard, and not the neighbor’s, you can spray affected plants with a homemade attractant (10 parts water/1 part sugar/1 part brewer’s yeast). They’ll come for the sugar water and stay for a bad-bug dessert.
- Words by Andrea Leigh Ptak
- May 31, 2014
- 7 Comments
So excited to learn about the insect attractant. We have several egg cases fir praying nantis’s that have wintered over and I am hoping that we will soon have babies.
I am so annoyed that the President has signed bills allowing Monsanto to continue their antics.
There is only one earth.
I cannot agree more. We cannot continue to allow business and profits to take precedence over the health and longevity of the plant.
I really enjoyed reading this article, very imformative.
I was wondering if you have any tips on a natural weed killer
that I could use on my very weedy overgrown garden.
I have been putting weed cloth down, but the weeds are still thriving
I would like to knock them out a bit, before I cover them with the weed cloth.
What should I do????
Thanks Seraina. I’m working on a blog post for that right now. The quick answer is to mow/whack back as much of the vegetation as short as you can. Then, I’d spray with a mixture of water, salt, dish soap and vinegar. I’ll get the recipe up this week. In the meantime, mow it down!
I just posted on this same topic about a week ago! I have had complete success (knock on wood) with planting flowers that draw beneficial insects. It’s so rewarding and beautiful at the same time!
I just found a ladybug nursery on some native honeysuckle that had a ton of aphids. I cut it away from the plant, then placed it in an out-of-the-way spot so they cold carry on.
Awesome! It’s amazing to watch nature at work (and help it along).