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It may surprise you to learn that for 24,000 species of insect, only around 100 – 200 are considered a pest. This means that there are tens of thousands of bugs that are beneficial to your backyard. So, if you’re keen to boost your garden’s ecosystem, here are some critters that you’ll want to attract.
Beneficial Bugs for Your Backyard
Bugs are so diverse, from slithering earthworms to eight-legged arachnids and everything in between. Each of these amazing creatures has different benefits to your garden, so it’s worth knowing what to expect from them and how to attract them.
You’re probably familiar with the fact that ladybugs eat aphids, more commonly known as greenflies. These flies are considered a pest for a variety of plants, so the presence of ladybugs will drastically reduce numbers. But they also eat a whole host of other pests, including mealybugs and leafhoppers.
What’s more, the ladybug larvae eat even larger amounts of aphids. While adults consume 50 or more a day, the larvae can get through far more. Plus, they won’t do any damage to your plants.
How to Attract Ladybugs?
One of the best ways to attract ladybugs is to grow the right plants in your garden. Things like yarrow and dill are excellent as well as fennel, marigold, and caraway. Ladybugs love pollen, so making sure that there is lots of food available will bring them to your garden in large numbers.
Also, make sure that there is a source of water. These insects need access to water, particularly in the early morning and during the late afternoon. A pond is a great choice, but something as minimal as a birdbath will also suffice.
Bees are the number one pollinator you should be attracting to your garden. It may surprise you that bees are essential for the pollination of around 80% of the food supply in the USA, and you can do your bit by attracting them to your yard.
But they won’t only pollinate plants and crops outside your garden, if you grow fruits or flowers, they’ll boost production right on your doorstep. Sadly bees are becoming endangered as their habitats are being destroyed so it’s more important than ever to create a safe haven for them.
How to Attract Bees?
Bees need flowering plants and lots of nectar so be sure to plant lots of these. Things like lavender, marjoram, pussy willow, and foxgloves are all excellent choices. But also make sure to factor in ground bees who will need an unmulched area of soil.
Like other insects, bees require a water source but make sure it’s shallow, so choose something like a saucer.
Additionally, if you want to attract mason bees, you will need a dead tree, as this is where they will build their nest. And of course, if you want to go all out, you could invest in a hive, attract bees and make your own honey!
Lacewings will hugely benefit your garden, but it’s the larvae that do a lot of the hard work. They’ll feed on aphids just as much as ladybugs, so they’re excellent for pest control.
These flies are also incredibly beautiful, so if you’re looking to observe nature then they’re ideal. Plus, the adults will feed on a lot of other pests, including mealybugs and caterpillars. However, they do eat mainly pollen, so they are amazing pollinators, almost rivaling bees.
How to Attract Lacewings?
Attracting lacewings to your garden is very easy. Planting species such as geraniums, roses, and marigolds will attract them in swathes. Do be mindful not to treat your plants with pesticides as this will deter lacewings. They purposefully lay their eggs around infested plants to give the larvae a food source.
If you prefer, it is possible to purchase lacewing larvae that you can sprinkle around your yard and leave them to hatch. You’ve then got an instant community.
Many people are frightened of spiders because of their almost alien-like appearance. But don’t let this put you off attracting them as they’re excellent at controlling pests like mosquitoes and flies. Some species will also feed on cockroaches, and others build webs that catch all sorts of flying pests.
If you have problems with caterpillars munching on your plants, then spiders will take care of this problem too.
How to Attract Spiders?
Spiders need an area of the garden that’s a little unkempt and messy. They also are attracted if there is a lot of mulch in the soil. Anything that gives them some cover and protection will draw them in.
Try installing garden lights as this will give the spiders somewhere to spin a web, and the light will attract prey. But be careful again not to use pesticides as this will limit the amount of prey which could deter these eight-legged creatures.
Also, make sure to have a large variety of trees, plants, and shrubs to give them further options on where to spin webs.
Wasps are another bug that isn’t favored by humans, but when you learn how they’ll benefit your backyard, it’s easy to understand why it’s important to attract them. They’re needed for pest control, especially for things like house spiders and flies. Moreover, they’ll lay their eggs on pest insects, further proving their effectiveness in pest control.
While wasps are not active pollinators like other flying insects such as bees, they often accidentally pollinate so can also be useful in this respect.
How to Attract Wasps?
You will need to make sure that you choose the right plants in order to attract wasps. In the veggie patch, try planting plenty of radish and broccoli while in your herb garden things like mint will quickly bring in wasps.
Also, be sure to give the wasps plenty of cover by planting larger plants such as sunflowers along the borders of your yard.
Parasitoid wasps will lay their larvae on a host which will eventually die from the parasites. There are thousands of species of parasitoid wasps, but there is one that particularly preys on aphids, which are known as a common garden pest.
The larvae will feed on the insides of their host and ultimately ‘dry’ them out, leaving nothing but a papery outer shell.
How to Attract Parasitoid Wasps?
To attract parasitoid wasps, you need to have a range of potential hosts in your garden. This means not using pesticides to kill off things like aphids but allowing nature to do the work for you. These wasps will hone in on aphid colonies and lay their eggs.
Adults enjoy eating pollen and nectar, so it’s worth planting as many flowering plants as possible to draw them in.
Before anything else, butterflies are certainly one of the most attractive-looking bugs so it’s simply pleasing to have them in your garden. But much more than this, they are one of the best pollinators so will help your plants, flowers, and fruits to thrive as well as pollinating other sources outside your yard.
How to Attract Butterflies?
If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, then you’ll need a whole host of flowering plants. Things like queen anne’s lace, milkweed, coneflowers, and asters are perfect. Butterflies also like anything that is brightly colored such as yellow, orange, and red so focus on flowers in those colors.
It’s also a great idea to place a few slices of fruit on a plate somewhere in your yard. Make sure it’s juicy and fresh, and you’ll notice butterflies coming more and more often.
When they are in their larval stage, hoverflies are excellent at crushing aphid populations, so if you have problems with these, then you’ll want to attract hoverflies. The larvae will also feed on caterpillars, so they’re pretty versatile when it comes to pest control.
As adults, the hoverflies will feed mainly on nectar and pollen, so they’re one of the best pollinators around.
How to Attract Hoverflies?
Hoverflies are by far one of the easiest bugs to attract, and you’ll need to do nothing more than grow a few select plants. Any flowering plants that have an open center are ideal and of course those with plenty of pollen and nectar.
Many gardeners swear by yarrow and dill but also remember to plant some taller things like sunflowers as this will allow the flies to hover, which is in their nature.
You might think that the praying mantis looks like a dangerous insect, but while it does have a strange appearance, it’s harmless to humans. These creatures are perfect if you’re looking for bugs to control the pest population in your garden. They’ll prey on all sorts, including caterpillars, aphids, beetles, and flying pests like mozzies.
That said, do keep in mind that they will also prey on some beneficial bugs, so attracting them may come at a cost. It’s best to try and keep a balance where possible with these insects.
How to Attract Praying Mantis?
The praying mantis doesn’t do well in colder conditions and will almost certainly be killed off during a frost. For this reason, it’s imperative to make sure you provide them with places to shelter. Shrubs and trees are ideal but make sure you don’t cut them back until spring has sprung.
By planting native plants, you will be more likely to attract the praying mantis but remember that diversity is key, so plant as many different species as you can.
Moths typically only come out at night, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as beneficial to your garden. These nocturnal creatures are excellent pollinators, just like their winged cousins, the butterfly.
What’s more, moths are an essential food source for animals higher up the food chain like birds and small mammals. This is great news if you want to bring a wider range of animals to your garden.
How to Attract Moths?
To attract moths to your garden, you will need to make sure you plant the right things. Jasmine is an excellent option, but other plants like sweet rocket and honeysuckle are perfect. Don’t forget that moths are attracted to light so having some garden lights could bring in many more of these critters.
Ground beetles are another night creature that can hugely benefit your garden since they are excellent at pest control. They feed on a variety of creatures such as snails, maggots, cutworms, and slugs. It may surprise you to learn that a single adult ground beetle can consume as many as 50 caterpillars in just one night!
Do remember that these beetles, while there are thousands of varieties, won’t usually be seen in the day unless you lift up a rock.
How to Attract Ground Beetles?
Ground beetles need somewhere to hide out during the day, so you will need to provide them with ground cover. Things like compost heaps, leaf litter, and log piles all work well. Also, ensuring that there is a good amount of mulch on your soil will help to attract them.
Planting perennials will also help to bring in ground beetles as when they lay their eggs, they hatch and feed off things in the soil around these plants.
Please do keep in mind that assassin bugs do have a painful bite if you handle them. They’re not toxic or harmful, but they will sting, so it’s best to leave them alone to enjoy your yard. That said, they are incredible pest controllers and will eat everything from flying pests to beetles and caterpillars.
If you have problems with aphids, then assassin bugs are essential as they will pierce these pests and suck out the internal fluids, effectively killing them.
How to Attract Assassin Bugs?
Assassin bugs will be attracted by light, so illuminate your garden with solar lights. But you will also need to make sure you plant the right things, including marigolds, sunflowers, and dandelions. Queen Anne’s lace is also a great choice for bringing in assassin bugs.
It’s also a good idea to provide as much ground cover as possible by adding additional mulch and leaf litter.
You might be put off the idea of attracting soldier beetles to your garden when you learn that they are a type of stink bug. However, that shouldn’t deter you since they are excellent predators and will take care of problems with other beetles and caterpillars. This makes them a great insect to have in your yard if you have a veggie patch.
Do be mindful that soldier beetles can look similar to less beneficial stink bugs, but you can easily tell them apart since they have spines on their legs.
How to Attract Solder Beetles?
Soldier beetles will lay their larvae around the garden, and these babies will also take care of problematic insects. To attract them, you will need to make sure you plant things like ornamental grass, goldenrod, hydrangea, and asters.
Also, make sure that you aren’t using any pesticides in your garden as this will kill off the soldier beetle’s prey, and they will go elsewhere looking for somewhere to lay their eggs.
Most obviously, the dragonfly is essential in the control of flying pests such as mosquitoes. They catch their prey mid-flight and are extremely effective hunters. They will prey on some of the more beneficial creatures in your garden, such as butterflies and even smaller dragonflies, so do be aware of this.
Dragonflies will lay their eggs near a water source, so if there’s one in your garden, you’ll benefit from the larvae feeding on that of flying pests.
How to Attract Dragonflies?
Dragonflies are attracted to water, so if you want to attract them to your yard, it’s essential to have something like a pond. That said, if you live very close to a natural water source, you may spot them flying around. Some people make the mistake of placing bowls of water to attract dragonflies, but this is more likely to attract mosquitoes which will quickly breed and become a problem.
It would seem that ants are everywhere, and while they could be a problem if you get an infestation indoors, in the garden, these little critters are very beneficial. They will help to aerate your soil, leaving it healthier owing to the fact that these insects are what are known as decomposers.
Did you know that ants will also help to disperse seeds around your garden, helping it to thrive? There are a few pest species like the fire ant, but for the most part, these creatures will be advantageous to your garden.
How to Attract Ants?
Avoid using any heavy chemicals in your garden as this will deter ants, and even if they do still come, these chemicals can be extremely harmful to them.
Ants do not like very wet soil, the drier, the better. This means not overwatering your garden otherwise the ants will likely move on.
There are a lot of different varieties of centipede, and many of them are beneficial to your garden. One of the main reasons that they are so advantageous is that they are excellent predators and will deal with problems such as slugs and grubs.
You might also wish to attract millipedes which are similar insects, and these are decomposers, so will break down organic matter within the soil, keeping it healthier.
How to Attract Centipedes?
If you want to attract centipedes and millipedes to your garden, then you must make sure that they have somewhere to shelter. This means including things like log piles, stones, and lots of ground cover.
These insects also like damp locations, so make sure that the areas of shelter are kept moist and cool. With all of this in mind, it is important to remember that while millipedes are excellent decomposers, they can also be slightly damaging, so if you don’t want these, it’s important to be able to tell them apart. Usually, when threatened, they will curl up, whereas a centipede will run away.
Earthworms are another kind of decomposer, and they’re essential if you have a compost bin or heap. These creatures will break down organic matter in the soil, such as leaves, animal waste, and other things. These invertebrates will also help to aerate the soil.
The benefit of all of this is that your soil will be much healthier and full of nutrients for your plants. So having lots of earthworms means a thriving garden.
How to Attract Earthworms?
If you are looking to attract earthworms to your garden, then you will need to make sure that there is a lot of decaying matter like leaf litter. Other items like rotting wood and animal waste will also attract these little critters. You can apply lots of mulch to your soil to bring in more earthworms, and even when they leave casts behind, you can use these on your lawn as a fertilizer.