Backyard Nature Wednesday: Attracting beneficial insects

Beneficial insects, the good guys of the insect world, are a gardener's best friend. They are an organic pest patrol that hunts down and destroys many of the insects that damage or destroy our ornamental plants and our food crops. Moreover, many of them do double duty as pollinators, helping along the essential link in the life cycle of our plants.

How do we attract these beneficial insects? The same way we attract birds or amphibians or other wildlife to our yards - we provide them with the things that they need; food, water, shelter, a place to lay their eggs and allow their young to develop into adults. 

For many of these insects, that means planting the plants that they need to feed from or on which they lay their eggs. Mother Earth News has a extensive list of these useful plants. It's also extremely important to provide them with a source of water. But more and more gardeners are attempting to attract and encourage these insects by providing them with human-built shelters.

I've written here before about my experience with this mason bee habitat, seen here in its pristine condition. After several years out in the weather... devolved into this. That didn't bother the bees. They continued to use it.

I decided, though, that, esthetically, my old bee house was no longer an asset in my garden and it was time to replace it. When asked for a Christmas wish list, I put insect habitat on it, and one of my daughters came up with this:  

Wow! Now that's what I call I call a five-star insect hotel. Not only does it have all those round holes and tubes to give various native bees a place to nest, but those lower spaces are supposed to give ladybugs and other beneficial beetles a place to go. The instructions say to put a pine cone in that lower left spot to give the ladybugs the kinds of tight spaces they like to crawl into.

That vertical slot in the middle is supposed to give butterflies a place to rest or hibernate. I have some doubts about whether it will ever be used, but I feel pretty confident that the other spaces will be utilized. I look forward to seeing it crawling with insects!

There are squeamish people, I am told, who are completely repulsed by six-legged creatures and they squash every one that comes within swatting distance. Those people need to get over themselves! We live in an interdependent environment. Insects, for the most part, are our friends and partners. We need to protect and encourage the good guys in whatever ways we can.


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