All the Dirt: Creating a Home for Beneficial Insects

November 28th, 2008 by WY Daily Staff

All the Dirt: Creating a Home for Beneficial Insects

Got bad bugs? There’s an easy way to fix that problem. With very little expense or effort, you can add friendly plants to your garden to create an ideal habitat that will attract the good guys to your yard.

Attracting beneficial bugs to your property makes good sense. The use of broad spectrum pesticides endangers our health and the health of the environment. Harmful insects will eventually build up a tolerance to the chemicals, making the pesticide useless. We have to ask ourselves if we really want the manufacturers to produce even stronger chemicals to combat the problem of pesticide tolerance. Fortunately, most gardeners are on board and are looking for environmentally friendly solutions to their gardening challenges.

By planting the right plants, you can attract beneficial bugs to your yard and then keep them around throughout the year. You can do this in a number of ways: By interplanting beneficial-friendly plants among your existing vegetable and/or ornamental plants, by planting them in just a few strategic locations that will fit into your garden design, or by planting them all together in one area.

The first step is to identify which harmful insects you want to control. You may have a recurring aphid problem that concerns you, or a possible nematode issue with your impatiens. Maybe your concern is with leafhoppers.

Different plants attract different beneficials, so you can be as specific as you like.  Remember, in order to establish a resident population of good bugs, you will need to provide food, cover and over wintering sites. Many of the good bugs need nectar, in addition to the bad bug buffet.

Lacewings are among the most helpful beneficials, feeding on aphids, spider mites, leafhoppers, thrips and whiteflies. The host plants they prefer are cherries, plums, dill, cosmos, yarrow and fennel. Ladybugs that feast on aphids, leafhoppers, scales, mites and mealybugs prefer dill, butterfly weed, willow, penstemon, yarrow and native grasses. Diminutive wasps, who parasitize the bad bugs and leave only the skeletons, prefer yarrow, dill, cosmos, lobelia, thyme and parsley.

I like to attract a veritable smorgasbord of beneficial insects, so I plant host plants that are attractive to many. Planting an herb garden is another good option. Also remember that most beneficial bugs prefer smaller, clustering blooms to larger, single blooms, as it’s easier for them to access the nectar. So let your parsley bloom and see what it attracts.

To attract a good variety of beneficial insects, start with six to eight of the following plants:



Butterfly weed

Basil, with blooms





Dill, with blooms


Lemon balm





Queen Anne’s Lace






Remember, you won’t see instantaneous results. But you will begin to see signs of activity that will pique your interest, as the good bugs begin to restore natural balance to your garden.

Eileen Weldon knows all the dirt. She should; she’s the chief horticulturalist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the world”s most beautiful theme park – and our backyard.

One Response to All the Dirt: Creating a Home for Beneficial Insects

  1. Anonymous

    November 29, 2009 at 12:00 am

    Last winter I had an aphid infestation in the garden shed where I start seedlings. It’s warm and humid out there.
    A shipment of lady bugs took care of the problem.
    Any suggestions for winter, indoor spaces?

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