Lawn and Garden

Encourage Beneficial Insects

We are currently in the season for major insect activity. More people than ever seem to want to follow environmentally friendly practices but lack the time or understanding on how to do so. One way you can help to reduce harmful pests in the landscape is to include plants that support beneficial insects which in turn will prey on harmful ones. You should also know how to identify beneficial insects so if they are present you will leave the insect controlling to them. IFAS EDIS factsheet ENY-822 can help you to do this.

In most cases it is the flowering stage of a plant that will attract beneficial insects for they are seeking the nectar or pollen for food. They will use harmful insects in the landscape to parasitize or lay eggs on to support their offspring. Some landscape trees and shrubs that are known to attract beneficial insects include; bottlebrush, Turk’s cap, holly, crape myrtle, elderberry, peach, wild plums and fatsia. Herbs in bloom that attract beneficial insects are hyssop, dill, coriander, bee balm and primrose. In the vegetable garden okra, sunflower, collards/mustard, beans and cowpeas produce blooms that are enticing to beneficial insects. Flowers which are known to attract beneficial insects are; goldenrod, lantana, butterfly weed, passion flower and cassia.

It is important to note that plants which can attract beneficial insects can also attract harmful ones. In this case they are then called a trap crop. A good example is sunflower. Besides attracting beneficial insects it attracts stinkbugs. The sunflowers can be planted away from your tomatoes to attract the stinkbugs to them and you can control the stinkbugs by throwing them into a container of soapy water or alcohol. Understanding the interaction of the flowers in your landscape to the insects they attract is key to utilizing beneficial insects as a way to reduce harmful insect populations in the landscape.

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