Natural pest control – using beneficial insects

Using chemical sprays on vegetables is rarely a good choice. Luckily, there is an alternative. Natural pest control using beneficial insects can work just as well.

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The most common beneficial insects:

Ladybirds: In addition to aphids, ladybirds are also known to consume spider mites, scale insects and mealybugs. They are bright red, orange or yellow with spots and will be a familiar sight to most people. Ladybird larvae also eat pest insects, so they will start doing their job in your garden right away.

Lacewings or Neuroptera: This is another very common visitor to UK gardens. They are very easily recognisable, sporting almost translucent green or brown wings and jewel-like eyes. Lacewings and their larvae feast on insect eggs, mites, thrips, mealybugs, scales, aphids and even small caterpillars – typically over 100 every day!

Parasitic Wasps: These micro wasps are so tiny they are barely noticeable. Borers, thrips, aphids and caterpillars all play host to the parasitic wasp, which lays its eggs in their bodies. Once the larvae has hatched, it feeds on the host’s fluids. These minute wasps are attracted to nectar and pollen-producing plants.

Attracting Beneficial Insects

Beneficial insects are predatory. They are like the lions of the insect world, consuming other insects as part of their life cycle. For example, a ladybird is likely to eat almost 2,500 aphids, which can be serious pests, over the course of its life.

There are many catalogues available through which gardeners can purchase beneficial insects. However, it is possible to entice them to your garden by buying certain plants and shrubs. Encouraging the ones already there is also fairly simple. First, avoid broad-spectrum pesticides (unless you have a big pest problem and all other methods have failed) because these will kill not only your pests but also the beneficial insects in your garden.

If you continue to have a big pest problem, including bird pests, it is a good idea to enlist the help of expert nuisance bird management services like http://www.vvenv.co.uk/.

Flower nectar is a requirement for many beneficial insects, so make sure you have plenty of plants in bloom. Choose different varieties, such as parsley, sunflowers, daisies, cilantro, calendula and bee balm, to ensure there are blooms throughout as many months of the year as possible.