How to Plant to Attract the Right Kind of Insects & Bugs
There are several gardening strategies that can help you attract beneficial insects like pollinators, predators, and parasites that will keep your garden healthy. Here are a few.
Landscape With Native Trees, Shrubs, Flowers
Plants that grow naturally in your geographic region are better adapted to the soils, weather, and climate of your neighborhood than are exotic ornamentals from overseas or even other parts of North America. Do a little homework online and at the library; and consult with the Cooperative Extension Service in your county, as well as local horticultural and native plant societies, to determine what plants will do best in your yard. Native plants are less demanding of water and fertilizers, and better able to fend off pest insects than ornamentals.
This is a concept whereby you place a plant that repels insects next to one that is vulnerable to attacks from pests. Marigolds are a nearly universal companion plant, believe it or not. They can even discourage larger pests like rabbits or deer. Basil, besides being an herb itself, can enhance the growth and flavor of other crops while repelling mosquitoes. Nasturtiums repel aphids. Consult several authorities when planning to use this strategy. Some may not work in your particular region.
Be “Weed Tolerant”
Many of those “weeds” in your garden are native wildflowers that attract more insects than the ones you planted yourself. Accommodate these “volunteers” whenever you are able. Even dandelions are helpful, blooming early in the season before other flowers and offering vital nectar and pollen to bees. The clover in the lawn is a staple for bumble bees and honey bees, and since clover is a legume it fixes nitrogen in the soil, actually benefitting your lawn and reducing the need for fertilizers. Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot), goldenrod, thoroughwort, and asters also attract many pollinators and predatory insects.
Plant for Pollinators
Different insects are drawn to different flowers. Flat-topped flowers like parsley, dill, and fennel, and composites like daisies, allow insect visitors to keep an eye out for potential danger while still foraging. Tubular flowers attract hummingbirds, moths, and bees and butterflies not afraid of diving head first down the throat of the corolla. Milkweed will indeed attract Monarch and Queen butterflies. Passion vines attract longwing butterflies like the Gulf Fritillary. Be mindful that the caterpillars of butterflies can consume a great deal of foliage on plants. The plant can usually withstand it and….the butterflies!