Nature’s Helpers – Insects to Encourage into your Garden

Although some people have an aversion to creepy-crawlies, there are certain insects which savvy gardeners choose to keep onside. It is useful to know which ones are the good guys and which are the insects to avoid in your garden. Here are just a few that you might want to encourage.

Bumblebee (Bombus)

The iconic symbol of a natural working garden is the bumblebee, busily buzzing from plant to plant. As they collect pollen, they are also pollinating our plants so that they produce fruit and berries. The bees’ role is of utmost importance in the food chain. This makes it all the more worrying when their population is threatened. Research suggests this is in part due to modern farming methods, where hedgerows are cut down. Additionally, there is the effect of insecticide chemicals, such as organophosphates.

To attract bumblebees into your garden and do your bit for the ecosystem, as well as your own patch, consider avoiding insecticides and choosing some bee-friendly plants.  As bumblebees do not ‘see’ the colour red, go for a variety of flowers, such as buddleia, in shades of purple, orange and yellow, as they are especially attracted to these. Flat flowers are easier than double blooms for bees to extract pollen from.

Common Centipede (Lithobius forficatus)

Centipedes are often confused with millipedes. Without getting too technical, millipedes have two pairs of legs to each body segment, while centipedes have just one pair. Centipedes move faster – if you have the patience to watch and compare! Both can be beneficial in the garden, eating the eggs of slugs and snails in the soil, but while the centipede generally does not attack plants, millipedes might. To encourage centipedes, all that is needed is a small moist area, perhaps under upturned pots, or a small pile of rotting leaves or wood.

Green Lacewing (Chrysopa carnea)

Named for its transparent, green-veined wings, the larva of the lacewing eats aphids, which are a perennial headache for gardeners. Many plants attract lacewings, including achillea and cosmos; they also go for dandelions, although these might not be such a popular addition unless in a designated wildflower area!

Hoverfly (Syrphidae)

Although disguised as a wasp to warn off predators, the hoverfly does not sting. Their pattern of movement is to hover, then dart, and hover again. The larvae and adult both eat aphids and mealybugs, amongst others. To attract hoverflies, plant lobelia and lavender, as well as the lacewing’s menu, achillea and cosmos. They are also attracted to fragrant herbs, such as lemon balm and spearmint.

Ladybird (Coccinellidae)

A well-loved sight in gardens, with their red coats and black spots, ladybirds voraciously eat aphids. During its larva stage, one alone can eat upwards of 400 aphids. Ladybird-attracting plants include: achillea, potentilla, geranium, penstemmon and alyssum. The war on insect pests does not have to include total defeat of them! If you put up with a small number of minor pests (and after all, getting rid of them all is near impossible without undesirable chemical use), this will in fact encourage the beneficial insects to visit your garden and make your job easier.