High performing beneficial bugs

 

By Laura Mills Blog Writer at Dennis’ 7 Dees Garden Centers

 

Insects perform many essential tasks in the garden. It is important to have a healthy population to help ensure pollination, pest management and nutrient cycling within the garden.

Encouraging beneficial insects to stay in your garden is simply a matter of providing basics needs: food, water, shelter and a safe place to live. Food, water and shelter are usually already present however, a safe place to live means reducing or eliminating the use of insecticides. It’s something to consider if your goal is retaining beneficial insects in your garden.

Lady Bugs

With their handsome attire lady bugs are adored for their beautiful coloration and veracious appetite for harmful garden pests like aphids, mites and scale.

Release: Several hours before release provide water to hydrate them and ready them for action. Generally this means misting their tub with water, just enough for a few full drops to reach them. At dusk, open their container and place it near their food source, a plant or plants affected by aphids, mites or scale. Releasing them at dusk will encourage them to home in your garden and stay put.

Mason Bees

Mason Bees play a crucial role in early season pollination. These sturdy garden friends appear earlier than other bees and pollinating insects making them invaluable for pollinating early season crops like blueberries, apples, cherries and pears. Mason Bees are not aggressive and tend to keep to themselves. They do not make honey.

Mason Bees are sold in tubes or individually. These tubes and individual bees are then placed in a Mason Bee ‘nest,’ a solid block with holes drilled in it. The bees hibernate through the winter in the holes in cells created by mud partitions. It is important not to move the nest during emergence or nesting.

Release:  Place the mason bees in an east or southeast facing location where they can receive the morning sun to warm them for the day’s activity. After several relatively warm days they will emerge to pollinate the garden.

Nematodes

Nematodes are microscopic worms that attack and kill grubs, larvae and insect eggs. They are most commonly used to treat Ants, Cutworms, European Cranefly (a common lawn pest), Fleas (in lawns), Root Weevils and Termites. They are perfect for treating lawn issues where children play because they are a safe chemical-free way to treat pests. Nematodes are most active and therefore most effective when the soil temperature is around 60 degrees F.

Release: Nematodes are usually put in to a solution then poured in and around the affected plants or area.

Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis is a relatively large insect that feeds on aphids and other harmful pests within the garden. They are sold as egg cases, from which several insects will emerge; an excellent project for young gardeners and nature enthusiasts.

Release: Once the Mantis has emerged from its egg case and the weather is warm it can be deposited on an affected plant, ideally at least 2 to 3 feet from the ground.

Worms

Worms are one of the world’s great recyclers. They ingest dead plant material, and incorporate it into the soil providing excellent nutrition and invaluable beneficial microorganisms which help to strengthen and protect plants. Worms can be added to almost any soil, including raised beds, to improve the nutrient cycling, soil consistency and nutrition.

Release: Place worms on top of moist soil, a single sheet of moist newspaper can be placed on top of them to obscure them from predators, but they need the light to orient and go into the soil. Avoid direct sunlight as it can harm worms. If it is a full sun area, wait until evening or place beneath foliage to provide protection from the sun and predators. The worms will work their way into soil.

Worms can also be raised in worm bins, feeding on kitchen scraps and producing exquisite rich black compost and compost tea which is alive with beneficial microorganisms that help improve the performance and vigor of plants.