As plants grow, it simultaneously creates a world of its own. With your care, other plants begin to emerge. Earthworms, ants, etc call the soil their homes. Butterflies add some colour to your garden and bees give it a beat. Apart from these insects, there are others whose life revolves around your plants. Some love to eat the plant, also known as pests, while others protect your plant from these “bad guys”. The good guys are called ‘beneficial insects’ and they are very effective in managing pests. Today we’ll profile a few of them and also suggest on how you can attract them to your garden using plants.
The three “P’s” of beneficial insects are pollinators, predators and parasites. Pollinators, such as honeybees, fertilize flowers, which increases the productivity of your plants. Predators, such as lady beetles and soldier bugs, consume pest insects as food. Parasites use pests as nurseries. On any given day, all three “P’s” are feeding on pests or on flower pollen and nectar in a diversified garden.
Lady beetles or Lady Birds:
Most people recognize the dome-shaped, often brightly coloured adults, which range in size from one-sixteenth to three-eighths of an inch long. Colours are highly variable and include orange, black, pink, or yellow. Spots may or may not be present.
Both the larvae and adult are voracious predators that can eat hundreds of aphids in their lifetime. They also eat insect eggs, mealy bugs, and other soft-bodied insects and mites. Flowering pollen-producing plants in the landscape attract lady beetles. Some examples of these are Dandelions, Apples, Strawberries, Mustard, etc.
This large, highly distinctive insect is tan, green, or gray, may be up to three inches long, and has large, bulging eyes on the sides of its head. A distinctive feature is its enlarged first pair of legs, which are held out in front of its body as though it were praying, which gives it its name. They have a neck that allows the head to rotate 180 degrees while waiting for a meal to wander by.
If you want to encourage Mantids, you should use as few pesticides as possible, and allow some vegetation to grow to provide cover for them.
You’ve probably overlooked the ground beetles in your garden. Lift a stepping stone, and you might see one skittering away. Most of these are shiny brown, black, or blue-black insects ranging in size from one quarter to over one inch long, with long legs and long antennae. Most ground beetles are nocturnal and have prominent jaws used to kill caterpillars (including armyworms, cutworms, and grubs) and other insects, as well as small snails and slugs. Both adults and larvae are predators.
One larva can consume 50 large gypsy moth caterpillars in two weeks, while a pair of adults can devour over 300 gypsy moth caterpillars and pupae per year.
A few plants that attract such beneficial insects are Basil, celery, dill, sunflowers, coriander, lavender, mint, mustard, dandelion, strawberry, alfalfa. It’s recommended that at least 10% of your garden should be covered with such plants that attract beneficial insects.
Author: Vaibhav Dugar
Me, I am a Green Warrior and yes you are either with me or against me! On paper I’m a telecommunication engineer but professionally, a farmer. Work takes me setting many-a-farms, tilling many-a-lands and playing with soil which I thoroughly enjoy. I love playing football (avidly), going cycling, watching Formula 1 and writing!
If you need company to watch Formula 1, pit stop at Vaibhav.Dugar [at] EkTitli.org
To receive updates in your inbox, click here
If you wish to have your work published at Ek Titli, please click here for more details.