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If you're tired of the "bad bugs" killing your tomato plants or turning your roses into an eyesore, there's an environmentally-friendly way to control those bugs: encourage beneficial insects to visit your garden! A beneficial insect is an insect that performs a valued service such as pest control or pollination. When you use beneficial insects to control garden pests, the goal is to keep pest populations to a tolerable level.
Beneficial insects can be broken down into three groups: predators, pollinators, and parasites. Predators feed on other insects, pollinators carry pollen between plants while they're feeding on nectar, and parasites live inside another insect while they're maturing. Predators, such as ladybugs and lacewings feast on aphids on your roses. Pollinators, such as honeybees, help pollinate the plants in your garden. Lots of small colorful blooms will attract syrphid flies, whose larvae will parasitize and kill the caterpillars in your vegetable garden.
Chances are you already have many beneficial insects in your yard and never noticed! The key to attracting beneficial insects is diverse planting. Combining many different plants will provide a broad spectrum of food and shelter. A mixture of native plants (perennials, trees, and shrubs) is one of the best lures for beneficial insects.
Also, provide a continuous food source. Make sure to provide your beneficial insects with plants that bloom from early spring right through fall to keep the insects in your garden all season long. Lastly, not all blooms are equal - large, nectar-filled blooms can drown small pollinators. Small flowers, produced in large quantities, are much more valuable than a few large blooms.
Finally, minimize or eliminate the use of pesticides because they destroy the beneficial insects along with the harmful ones. Enjoy your garden and look for the beneficial insects this summer!