Anna Messina's Blog
After a long winter, it’s nice to get outside and enjoy the sunshine and warm temperatures. That is, until I remember all of the insects that the season brings.
Insects can wreak havoc on your lawn by digging holes. Others can demolish your garden in a matter of days by eating leaves and laying eggs.
It’s no wonder we turn to pesticides to keep them away from the yard and garden we’ve spent so much time perfecting.
On the other hand, there are some insects that provide immense benefits to your yard. These ones often go unnoticed due to their nocturnal activity and tendency to stay out of sight.
In this article, we’re going to talk about some beneficial bugs that you actually want in your yard and garden. We’ll discuss why they’re so important and how you can encourage them to stick around.
But first, let’s discuss why you’d even want to invite insects in your yard.
The problem with pesticides
It would be reckless to label all pesticides as harmful. However, some pesticides have been shown to have detrimental effects on us, and on the bees who pollinate the plants that keep us all fed.
It is difficult to examine the effect of pesticides because there are so many factors at play, making a controlled study difficult to achieve. However, some “natural experiments” (meaning ones we don’t plan for and execute in a lab) have shown the pesticide chlorpyrifos to cause developmental problems in children.
Many people born before the turn of the century will probably remember or at least heard of the pesticide DDT and the risks that came with it. The dangers of such pesticides have led us to seek out alternatives in our yards, where our children play, and our gardens, where we get our food.
So, which bugs do you want to stick around in your yard?
Lady beetles, or “ladybugs” as they’re known in North America, are both beautiful and useful to have around the yard.
These colorful beetles look gentle but they are predators who prey on plant-eating insects called aphids. In its lifetime, a lady beetle can eat up to 5,000 aphids, which comes to about 50 per day. That’s a lot of protection for your garden.
To attract lady beetles to your garden, all you’ll need is a source of pollen for them to eat. They particularly like cilantro, fennel, dill, geraniums, and dandelions. You can also purchase lady beetles online and, with some luck, they’ll keep returning year after year.
There sure don't sound beneficial, but there are a few varieties of parasitic insects that won’t harm you or your garden, but will kill pests like aphids and flies. Parasitic wasps lay their eggs inside of aphids, killing them. Fly parasites kill flies in the pupal stage.
Flies are attracted to manure and other composting materials that you may want to use in your garden. If you keep a composting bin outdoors, you’re probably no stranger to flies. Purchasing fly parasites will help you manage the flies without resorting to sprays.
These slimy creatures aren’t like the others on our list. Rather than managing pests, earthworms help your soil directly. They aerate the soil, improving drainage, and they add nutrients to the soil in the form the of castings they leave behind.
The best way to attract earthworms to your yard and garden is to simply take good care of the soil. Earthworms thrive in moist soil with plenty of organic material.
So, when you see those tiny piles of worm castings in your dirt, just rake them out. It’s a sign that you have a healthy lawn and healthy soil underneath.