Playing With Bugs: Why All the Cool People Are Doing It

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I know talking about bugs gives most people the heebie-jeebies, but if you’re like me and don’t like coating your vegetable plants with a bunch of chemicals, beneficial insects are totally the way to go in the fight against pests in your garden.

My family’s love for beneficial insects started when my daughter was 5 years old and spotted a bag of ladybugs at the checkout counter at our local garden center.

At the time I knew nothing about the advantages of introducing beneficial insects to the garden (all I saw was a price tag of $5 and an afternoon of fun for my kids), but man oh man, am I ever glad I snatched up those bugs, even if I didn’t know what we were going to do with them.

After bringing the ladybugs home, I sat down with the kids and did a little research. Soon I discovered that adult ladybugs (and lacewings too) not only eat aphids, but they also like to munch on mealybugs and mites as well.  And their hungry larvae, get this, eat even more! How cool is that?

Ladybugs, lacewings and preying mantis are all beneficial insects and are all typically sold during the summer months online and at local nurseries.

Getting beneficial insects home from the store is the easy part, but keeping them in your yard can be a little tricky.

How to Keep Beneficial Insects in Your Garden

Believe it or not, the most important factor in getting the bugs to stay in your garden is how you release them.  Releasing ladybugs just after dusk will ensure they’ll at least spend the night, because they don’t like to fly in the dark.

For added protection, spray those adorable little bugs with a tiny bit of simple sugar solution  (1 cup water to 1 teaspoon sugar). This will make their wings a bit sticky and will prevent them from flying away for several more days.  A guy at my local garden center told me about this trick, and I’ve been doing it for years now.

Most beneficial insects also love the pollen in flowers and herbs, so planting things such as dill, fennel, marigolds, coreopsis, sweet alyssum or cosmos in your garden will help to keep your new little friends happy as well.

If you are worried about losing your flowers and herbs to the ladybugs, you can always plant a few “sacrificial” marigolds next to your veggies.

May the bugs be with you,

~Mavis

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