In general, we hate insects. We do! They are annoying little buzzy things and crawly things that look ugly, give us goose bumps and make us jump. They eat our plants and hang around in swarms. There are far too many of them, and they are no fun at all.
You will be surprised to learn, however, that they are actually quite useful – or at least some of them are.
So, which ones are good for your garden, and which do we just generally want rid of? Here is a brief guide.
Aphids are plant lice. They don’t even sound nice, and believe me, they don’t look nice. Particularly when there are thousands of them, all clinging to your favourite plants, leaving behind a sticky residue that turns into mould. Aphids include greenflies, whiteflies, blackflies and more, and they are after your best plant sap.
If you don’t like them, then you are not alone. However, something that does like them very much is a ladybird (also known as ladybugs in the USA and a few other places). Aphids are a tasty meal for ladybirds, so if you encourage a few into your garden, they are going to enjoy the feast and leave you without an aphids problem. Ladybirds are not to everyone’s tastes, but they are beneficial insects. You can attract them to your garden with dandelion, dill and other such like plants.
Another insect that loves your aphids are green lacewings. They are much bigger that greenflies, with longer wings, and they are really good at eating you out of a bug problem. They also like mealybugs and leafhoppers, and are attracted by angelica, dill, and coriander.
Caterpillars are fun when you are a child. You can grab them from leaves and watch their zillions of legs in motion as they wriggle across your palm. They also turn into butterflies, and that’s pretty cool. Except they are not so cool for gardeners. There is a reason The Very Hungry Caterpillar books were created. Caterpillars can eat until the cows come home – leaving huge holes in your leaves and ruining some of your best plants. That is why generally, we want rid.
Damsel bugs are long grey bugs. They don’t particularly look anything special, and you would generally not want to be close to one, but they feast on caterpillars, cabbage worms, mites and aphids – so are fantastic creatures for the health of your garden. If you want to create the perfect environment for them, grow spearmint, fennel, caraway and peter pan goldenrod.
Braconid wasps are also fantastic for getting rid of aphids and caterpillars, and you can attract them with parsley, lemon balm, common yarrow and fern-leaf yellow.
Getting these so called beneficial insects to come to your garden gives you a natural alternative to pesticides, which means that you don’t have to put harmful toxins on your plants. This is particularly useful if you are growing fruit and vegetables and want to keep them completely organic and chemical free.
This can also be a great way of saving money on your garden, as you won’t have to fork out for control products, which can be pretty expensive if you want to buy the best quality ones.
I’ll leave you with an interesting fact. Ladybirds can eat more than 5000 aphids during their lifetime – and they only live for around a year!