Using plants to attract beneficial insects has many advantages for the organic gardener. Attracting insects like ladybirds is a great way to naturally control your pests and bees are vital to pollination.
Here are some of the most important beneficial insects you will want to attract to your garden:
- Ladybirds: Adults and larvae are ferocious aphid eaters. The adults can lay up to 40 eggs near to the aphid colony and the larvae actively seek out their prey.
- Hoverflies: The larvae of the hoverfly can eat around 200 aphids
- Lacewings: Adults will feed on nectar and pollen and their larvae prey on aphids
- Ground beetles: Some beetles are predatory and will feed on aphids and other insects
- parasitic wasps: Eggs are laid into prey
- Bumble bees: Are excellent pollinators and providing food and a home in your garden will help support the dwindling population.
There are many pollen and nectar producing plants that can attract the insects the you want. Here are just a few, check out our organic flower seeds for more plants that attract insects and the guide on companion planting for more ideas.
- Borage One of the most important plants to have, borage is a fantastic source of nectar for bees and other insects. It makes a good companion plant to have in the vegetable garden as the insects it attracts make good pollinators. It is also good as a green manure. Its long taproot brings up nutrients from the subsoil that remain in the leaves.
- Pot marigold Hardy annual, which will self-seed freely. Produces bright orange, daisy-like flowers from May to the first frosts of autumn. Direct sow in autumn, spring or early summer, will tolerate light shade and nutrient poor-soils. Excellent as a companion plant.
- Californian poppy (Eschscholtzia) Fast-growing perennial, often grown as an annual in the UK as it will not tolerate very wet conditions to overwinter. Direct sow in spring in a sunny position and into any well drained soil, including poor soils. Flowers from June until September.
- Coriander Tender annual herb, grown for the seeds rather than the leaves. Produces small umbels of white flowers in summer. Direct sow from spring to early summer into free-draining, fertile soil in a sunny position.
- Chamomile Evergreen perennial herb, which produces golden yellow flowers during July and August. Sow under glass during March and April, plant out in early summer into well-drained soil in a sunny spot. This plant to very attractive to most types of beneficial insects.
- Fennel and bronze fennel A tall, hardy perennial herb that produces flattened clusters of tiny bright yellow flowers from August until October. An attractive plant, the leaves are edible too, tasting of aniseed. Sow directly in spring in a dry, sunny position. Remove fading flower-heads to prevent self seeding. Do not grow with dill, as the two will hybridise.
- Fern-leaf yarrow (Achillea) Hardy, easy to grow herbaceous perennial. Produces dense, deep gold flower heads in clusters up to 12.5cm (5in) across on tall upright stems from June until September. Direct sow in spring. Prefers full sun, but will grow in any well-drained soils.
These plants attract insects with nectar and pollen and provide shelter and homes for beneficial insects. The more diverse the plants you have the more diverse insects you will attract. Choose plants that are in season at different time of the year to supply a continuous supply of food. Try and keep a patch of your garden wild this will attract its own pest an therefore beneficial insects which you and relocate to other areas of your garden. Use ground-cover plant, green manures and mulches to provide a habitat for beetles.