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How to encourage beneficial insects

How to encourage beneficial insects

All garden pests have natural enemies. The trick is to encourage these beneficial insects and other creatures to take up residence in your garden so that they can do the pest management for you. The most effective way to do this is to provide the conditions they like, along with a little food on which they can live. Therefore you do need to be prepared to tolerate a low level of pests for the beneficial creatures to prey on. There are three other easy steps you can take to encourage them:

Provide shelter

Insects generally like dark, damp undisturbed places in which to hide during the summer and shelter during the winter months. There are several ways to create such places for them – leave a small pile of logs or stones in an out of the way spot, grow ground cover plants, put down slates or tiles hidden in the border. Providing shelter for beneficial insects is also the perfect excuse for letting the lawn grow a little longer. You can also buy special 'hotels' for lacewings and ladybirds.

Provide food and water

The larvae of ladybirds and lacewings are voracious eaters of aphids and definitely the kind of insects you want managing your pests. The adult forms of these beneficial insects do eat pests too, but mainly feed on pollen and nectar. A plentiful supply of these food sources in your garden will encourage them to stay put and lay their eggs.

Several groups of plants are excellent providers of nectar and pollen:

Insects also need water, so during dry weather put out a bowl containing pebbles that’s almost filled with water. This will enable insects to land on the rocks and drink without falling in. Alternatively, buy a special ladybird feeder.

Stop spraying

Nearly all pesticides are indiscriminate and will kill beneficial insects as well as the pests. Also, if all the pests are killed, there will be no food left for the predators. This will then encourage them to move on elsewhere and eat pests in other people's gardens. If you really do want to spray always use products that are specifically targeted and try to keep them in very specific areas, rather than going for blanket cover. It’s all a matter of choice, but you may feel much happier not killing things indiscriminately, even if it does mean a nibbled leaf here and there.

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