DIY

Nature’s Little Helpers: Eight Bugs That Will Make Your Garden Happy

by Rebecca Endicott
Becca is a writer and aspirational dog owner living in NYC.

I don’t know about you, but spring has always been my favorite season!

And it’s not just because the weather is getting warmer and the weekends are busy either; it’s because I love gardening!

Sure, you can garden all year round with lovely indoor plants like these, but you really can’t beat springtime for a lush, growing garden full of happy greenery.

Of course, every silver lining has its cloud; gardening season also means bug season.

Caterpillars and aphids appear out of nowhere to chow down on all of your carefully tended plants, and can lay waste to a whole garden if you let them.

For years, gardeners relied on pesticides to get rid of the icky bugs, but if you prefer a nontoxic lifestyle, there’s a different strategy you might want to look into: more bugs!

That’s right, there are lots of bugs that you actually want in your garden, believe it or not! Better yet, most of them are easily attracted with the right plants.

Check out a few of our favorite “gardener’s helpers” below, along with plants that will bring them in!

Friendly Bug #1: Ladybug

Friendly Bug #1: Ladybug

Ladybugs are probably the most famous “gardener’s helper” of them all!

These colorful polka-dotted beetles are considered good luck, and are beloved by gardeners because they snack on plant-eating aphids that ruin gardens.

In order to attract ladybugs, try planting some bright-blooming coreopsis in your garden.

Friendly Bug #2: Lacewing

Friendly Bug #2: Lacewing

You’ll know lacewings by their delicate wings and vibrant green color.

Don’t be fooled by their dainty appearance, though —these insects are voracious eaters and are often used as a form of all-natural pest control.

You can release them into your garden to tackle aphids, and keep them there by planting things like angelica, which has long stalks and small delicate blossoms.

Friendly Bug #3: Soldier Beetle

Friendly Bug #3: Soldier Beetle

These red-and-black-patterned insects come by their name honestly; they’re definitely warriors!

These guys are indiscriminate chowhounds, and will eat everything from caterpillars to larvae.

To keep them happy in your garden, plant something pollen-rich like hydrangea to help them supplement their diet.

Friendly Bug #4: Damsel Bug

Friendly Bug #4: Damsel Bug

Not to be confused with damsel flies, these leggy brown bugs can be identified by their long, narrow bodies and pale beige color.

Like their cousins, the praying mantis, these guys will make a meal of fellow insects, including aphids and various tree mites.

These guys are particularly helpful for vegetable gardens and agriculture, because they love to hang out in alfalfa plants, which provide good cover for them.

Friendly Bug #5: Braconid Wasp

Friendly Bug #5: Braconid Wasp

If you’re like me, you probably don’t think of wasps as the “good guys,” but these black-and-red insects might make you reconsider.

Unlike their more aggressive cousins, braconids rarely sting humans.

On the other hand, they’re exceptionally tough on plant-destroying caterpillars, whom they use as hosts for eggs and kill in the process.

These insects are drawn to lacy plants that grow small flowers, like the herb dill.

 

Friendly Bug #6: Ground Beetle

Friendly Bug #6: Ground Beetle

You probably now ground beetles as the harmless, glossy black insects that like to skitter around rocks and rotting wood.

While they are harmless to us, lots of smaller bugs might feel differently about these predators, especially moth caterpillars, their favorite meal.

To keep these guys around, give them a ground cover near your garden, like a fragrant bed of white clover.

Friendly Bug #7: Honeybee

Friendly Bug #7: Honeybee

If you enjoy a little bit of honey in your tea, you probably already love honeybees and the important services they perform for us!

These busy, buzzy bugs don’t just have good taste; they are also actively responsible for pollinating lots of flowers, and helping to diversify your garden and keep it healthy.

Thank them for their many good deeds by planting bright, nectar-rich flowers like cosmos that will make your honeybee helpers happy!

 

Friendly Bug #8: Tachinid Fly

Friendly Bug #8: Tachinid Fly

Tachinid flies look just like most ordinary house flies, with big eyes and fluttering wings.

The larvae of these flies are voracious eaters, and dine on caterpillar pests that might otherwise eat up the garden.

Once they’re full-grown, they also like to eat pollen, so consider planting some hyssop to keep them well-fed and happy in your garden!

If you plan to make the acquaintance of a few of these helpful insects this spring, make sure to SHARE for fellow gardeners!