Sunday, May 6, 2012

Beneficial Insects

Bumble bee in action on Spanish lavender

As a good omen let's start with a post on beneficial insects, which play a vital role in gardens.

There are two types of beneficial insects, the pollinators, and the predators.  Both play an important role in the life of plants, and any garden should be planted to welcome both.  There are many ways to attract beneficial insects, the most important one is to avoid the use of insecticides which will kill not only your pest, but a wide array of good bugs.  Secondly, it is important to offer a food sources for the beneficial, flowers with lots of pollen for the pollinators, and plants native to the region to provide nectar for native pollinators.  Some insects go through a complete metamorphosis and the adult form may feed on nectar while the larva stage feeds on other insects, so by planting a good variety of flowers it allows for both insect stages to take place in your garden.

Ceanothus, an early bloomer CA native
I am sure many of you heard about the disappearance of honey bees. There are other pollinators that appear to be declining, like bumble bees.  Almonds are an example of a crop which is solely pollinated by bees, so you can imagine the incredible impact on the food industry should we lose pollinators.  For a while I considered introducing a hive of honey bees in the garden but recently I decided to promote the health of the native bees, and any other pollinator that visits my garden.  If you are interested in planting your garden to attract pollinators please visit the very useful site called Pollinator Partnership to find a detailed and free list of plants that you can use in our particular area.

Here what I am doing in my garden:
  • Use an integrated pest management practice should I find a pest in the garden
  • Inter-planting flowers like Cosmos and Calendula in my vegetable beds
  • Select plants suited to your climate so they will stay healthy
  • Use of proper plant cultivation to maintain the health of the garden
  • Use of an array of flowering plants both for bees and butterfly
  • Plant many native flowers to keep the native insects happy
  • Select plants to have flowers most of the growing season, from early spring to late fall
  • Leave some ground not mulched for ground nesting bees

Parsley left to bloom for beneficials
Please tell me what are you planting in your garden.

Happy Spring!