As far as gardeners are concerned, bugs are a four-letter word.
We've all spent our summers planting and watering, only to find that caterpillars, aphids, and other pets have been snacking on our vegetables.
It's an annoying problem, but there's a clever solution.
Attracting the right bugs can make your work much easier. Some helpful garden bugs eat pests, and if you know the right tricks you can attract them easily.
The Four Types Of Helpful Bugs
Before we start renovating your garden to make it bug-friendly, lets review the four types of bugs you should welcome to your garden.
Many of these species are available by mail order or at your local garden center, but it's pretty easy to attract any of them to your garden.
This group includes flying beetles like ladybugs, and also beetles that hunt for prey on the ground. They both eat soft-bodied insects like aphids, but of course they have different specialties.
Certain types of flying bugs like lacewings will hunt smaller insects. They're effective at catching and eating all kinds of bugs, but do the most damage right after hatching, so you need to encourage them to lay eggs in your garden.
These are the six-legged creepy crawlies who don't fit into other categories, including damsel bugs and pirate bugs. They grow up quickly and eat a variety of pests, but can also be attracted by other food sources.
These flying bugs mostly attack caterpillars and worms, but they're effective killers who lay their eggs inside the larger bugs. The timing with wasps is tricky, because you really need to attract them before a caterpillar outbreak.
1. Make a habitat for your bugs
Bugs are like any other animal: they need food, water, and shelter but that last one is the most important.
Certain flowers are like neon signs attracting bugs to your garden. Most helpful species prefer small flowering plants that provide a source of nectar for their tiny mouths.
Ground bugs and beetles also like a garden cover from birds and other predators, which plants like white clover offer.
If you're serious about attracting insects, set aside a section of your garden for bug-friendly plants.
You'll need a mix of:
- small flowers
- short-growing plants for cover
- taller bloomers like daisies to attract flying insects
Almost all helpful insects like the same tiny flowers with exposed nectar, including species like yarrow, wild carrot, dill, and fennel.
Larger flowers like zinnias will bring in wasps.
Leaving this section of your garden a little "wild" will also encourage bugs to show up - drop sticks and leaves around the plants as both cover and food.
2. Water your garden and mind the soil
A little water goes a long way when you want to attract bugs. They drink just like any other creature, and if there's no water source in your garden they will fly away in search of some.
If you sprinkle your garden daily, the puddles left behind should be more than enough. Leaving a water dripper running near your bug section will help too - it also attracts wild birds.
If you're really feeling generous, put some marbles in a shallow dish and pour water in. That way bugs, can keep dry while getting a drink.
It pays to keep an eye the soil your bugs are roaming around in too. Fresh, moist mulch will keep beetles happy on warm summer days.
You can build stylish - but bug friendly - backyard projects too. Nocturnal beetles love anything with wooden boards or flat stones, because they can hide underneath during the day.
3. Be gentle and patient
If your first response to pests like aphids is dousing your plants in chemicals, you're only making the problem worse.
Odds are the pesticides will also wipe out the population of beetles and bugs that eat your aphids, making their numbers shoot up again.
Many gardeners who introduce helpful bugs quickly complain that the pest population is out of control.
Give it time.
It will take days and weeks for your bug population to find their prey, and in the meantime spraying pesticides won't help.
If you insist on spraying your plants, look for a product with a narrow range and short life, like insecticidal soap. It's designed to kill harmful insects and then disappear from your plants before it does too much damage.
You can also try a number of natural pest control methods that are less harmful for friendly insects.
Here are more gardening tips you must try:
- Fill your garden with wild birds in 4 simple steps.
- 18 garden hacks everyone should know.
- How to regrow 20 garden staples indoors.