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Beneficial Insects to Encourage in Your Garden

Ewww insects! That’s the first thought crossing your mind at the sight of pests and critters. Did you know that there are numerous beneficial insects that can help with your gardening adventures?

Invite in your very own side-kicks and start building a garden of your dreams.

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Beneficial Insects for Garden Pest Control

A human sidekick, who could help you are the gardeners and landscapers. They can offer a mesmerizing outdoor garden design for your property. With the help of so many sidekicks, your adventure is sure to become successful.

Your garden is quite precious to you. You invest effort, time and money into creating your perfect space of serenity. It would be heart-breaking if something were to happen to your garden.

Here are some beneficial insects, who can maintain your garden's working order:

1. Ground Beetle

Ground Beetle is nocturnal in nature and helps cabbage maggots, snails and other such bugs that damage your plants and crops

This beneficial insect is nocturnal in nature and helps cabbage maggots, snails and other such bugs that damage your plants and crops. They will follow your lead into your garden if you have perennials in your garden.

Russian sage, daffodils, peonies and Perennial sage are some of the perennials that can help you with the task. These plants also enhance the beauty of the garden, so you just incorporate them into your garden designs. They also provide a stable environment for the beetles to thrive in.

Food

  • Aphids
  • Caterpillars
  • Woodlice
  • Ants
  • Slugs

Attracted to

  • Leaf litter
  • Wood piles / rotting wood
  • Tree sap

2. Ladybugs

Ladybugs are beneficial insects that feast on aphids, mites, and many more such harmful pests

Adult ladybugs will be doing your garden a favor, as they feast on aphids, mites, and many more such harmful pests. The hungry larvae of the ladybug will work harder to protect your garden.

Herbs like fennel and dill will help to attract these beauties into your garden. The herbs can add taste to your cooking, while these insects can feast on them and help protect your garden.

Food

  • Aphids
  • Blackfly
  • Mites
  • Mealybugs
  • Fruit flies
  • Thrips

Attracted to

  • Pollen rich flowers
  • Angelica
  • Yarrow
  • Fennel
  • Dill
  • Calendula
  • Marigold
  • Alyssum

3. Lacewings

Lacewings also prevent aphids, mealybugs as well as whiteflies from encroaching into your garden

Quite similar to ladybugs, these beneficial insects also prevent aphids, mealybugs as well as whiteflies from encroaching into your garden. Eggs are easily available at a local gardening shop, but the easier way to invite them is adding alyssum to your garden.

The flowers look beautiful, so they enhance the beauty of your garden, while the lacewings keep your garden clean and safe.

Food

  • Aphids
  • Spider mites
  • Leafhopper nymphs
  • Moth eggs
  • Scale insects
  • Whitefly
  • Thrips

Attracted to

  • Achillea
  • Dill
  • Angelica
  • Marguerite
  • Mallow
  • Caraway
  • Coriander

4. Hoverflies

Hoverflies are predatory in nature and leave their eggs on the flowers that have pollen and nectar

The striped abdomens offer the flies the look of small bees. Their movement resembles that of flies. These flies are predatory in nature and leave their eggs on the flowers that have pollen and nectar.

The larvae feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Fern-leaf yarrow, common yarrow, carpet bugleweed and many more plants attract these insects.

Food

  • Aphids

Attracted to

  • Asters
  • Rudbeckia
  • Helenium
  • Ivy
  • Fennel
  • Buttercups
  • Dandelions

5. Bees

Bees are beneficial insects that help pollinate flowers and improve growth in your garden

Bees are beneficial insects for your garden so, do not be afraid of them. They help pollinate flowers and improve growth in your garden. If you are growing your garden in your backyard and want help and assistance from our little friends, you can look into buying honey bees.

You don't have to worry and be afraid of getting stung. They are not aggressive unless attacked. They come in get their food and benefit your garden in the process.

Plant colorful flowers and add a bee bath. The bee bath will invite in more bees and they can get a drink when needed. They are hard workers and need a break once a while, right?

Food

  • Nectar and pollen

Attracted to

  • Lavender
  • Borage
  • Foxgloves
  • Lupins
  • Fruit trees
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Lilac
  • Crocus
  • Poppies

6. Parasitic Wasps

Parasitic Wasps are highly beneficial and help protect your garden against the likes of caterpillars like tomato fruitworm, cabbage worm, tent caterpillars and many more

These creatures are highly beneficial and help protect your garden against the likes of caterpillars like tomato fruitworm, cabbage worm, tent caterpillars and many more.

Plants that can help attract these insects include lavender globe lily, dill, caraway, purple poppy mallow and various varieties of common yarrow.

Food

  • Aphids
  • Caterpillars
  • Sawflies
  • Leafhoppers
  • Beetles
  • Thrips
  • Mealybug
  • Mites

Attracted to

  • Yarrow
  • Achillea
  • Fennel
  • Dill
  • Wild Carrot
  • Angelica
  • Thyme
  • Alyssum
  • Cosmos

7. Nematodes

Nematodes are perhaps the most useful insect in our gardens, but they can also be some of the worst

Nematodes are perhaps the most useful insect in our gardens, but they can also be some of the worst. There are over 30,000 species known around the world, and while some are disruptive and can damage lawns and spread infection, others are actively useful and predate insects and grubs.

Root grubs, rot weevils, fleas, and cutworms are all bad news in the garden, but you can buy beneficial nematodes online to add to your soil.

Food

  • Fleas
  • Cutworms
  • Ants
  • Root weevils
  • Larval insects

Attracted to

  • They are ever-present but can be added to the soil from rehydrated packets

8. Dragonfly

Dragonflies are beneficial insects

Dragonflies are beautiful and beneficial insects, developing as nymphs in ponds and still water. They prefer well-oxygenated clear water, so including ponds in your garden design is a useful way to support them and invite them in.

Plant reeds at the borders of ponds, so nymphs can climb out when it’s time for them to spread their wings.

As nymphs, dragonflies predate mosquito larvae and common flies, keeping your garden free from troublesome pests, but as adults, they eat any flying insect they can, reducing the spread of disease, and maintaining a healthy balance in the garden.

Food

Adult stage:

  • Flies
  • Midges
  • Mosquitoes
  • Butterflies
  • Moths

Larval stage:

  • Water beetles
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Tadpoles
  • Small fish
  • Most insect larvae

Attracted to

  • Clear, well-oxygenated standing water (ponds)
  • Reeds (any plants they can climb out of the pond with)

9. Damselfly

Damselflies are smaller than dragonflies, but do a similarly useful job as nymphs in your ponds and still water features

Damselflies are smaller than dragonflies, but do a similarly useful job as nymphs in your ponds and still water features. As adults, they predate mosquitoes and smaller flying insects, reducing damage to crops and ornamental borders.

Damselflies are specifically attracted to reeds and papyrus, and can recognize them from a great distance, so cleverly planted ponds are key to bringing these useful insects in.

Food

Adult stage:

  • Flies
  • Midges
  • Mosquitoes

Larval stage:

  • Water beetles
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Tadpoles
  • Small fish
  • Most insect larvae

Attracted to

  • Clear, well-oxygenated standing water (ponds)
  • Reeds (any plants they can climb out of the pond with)
  • Papyrus

10. Butterflies

Butterflies are generally useful pollinators in our gardens

Butterflies, while troublesome on some vegetable crops, are generally useful pollinators in our gardens. As adults they feed solely on nectar, so they pollinate flowers and vegetables in equal measure, and are particularly useful for courgettes and cucumbers. 

Any umbellifer (flat-topped) flowers, or flowers with long nectar-filled bases, are great food sources as butterflies are well adapted to feed from them with their long tongues.

The downside to butterflies is often caterpillars, particularly cabbage whites, whose small green caterpillars are hard to detect and are destructive to cabbage and kale crops.

Food

  • Liquid nectar

Attracted to

  • Buddleia
  • Valerian
  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Sedum
  • Marjoram
  • Angelica
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Alyssum
  • Achillea
  • Lilac

11. Moths

Moths are rarely seen as beneficial insects, but they support a varied ecosystem, and their caterpillars are useful food for birds

Moths are rarely seen as beneficial insects, but they support a varied ecosystem, and their caterpillars are useful food for birds. They also pollinate many night-scented flowers which other insects don’t, helping to create seeds and pollinate fruit and nut trees.

Moths also prevent the spread of lichens and unwanted fungi on timber structures as they feed on spores and young fungi, as well as cleaning up rotting fruit.

Food

  • Varies by species
  • Fungi
  • Lichens
  • Nectar
  • Rotting wood
  • Rotting fruits
  • Tree sap

Attracted to

  • Morning Glory
  • Night scented Stock
  • Nicotiana
  • Jasmine
  • Evening Primrose
  • Currants
  • Hazel
  • Holly
  • Fruit trees
  • Conifers (for habitat)

12. Worms

Worms help to turn fallen leaves into the soil, aerate our ground, and recycle our waste

Worms are infinitely useful in our gardens. From the heavily active red worms to the common earthworm, they all help to turn fallen leaves into the soil, aerate our ground, and recycle our waste.

Worms also feed on smaller creatures, largely accidentally as they consume anything in their path, turning it into rich fertilizer as they go.

Compost piles, leaf litter, and rotting fruit are excellent food sources for worms, but it's also worth mulching your garden regularly to provide food that they can work back into the soil to save you hours of digging each year.

Food

  • Soil
  • Decaying leaves
  • Rotting fruit
  • Manure
  • Compost
  • Smaller larval insects and mites

Attracted to

  • Well-aerated soil

13. Rove Beetles

Rove Beetles support the churning up of composting kitchen waste just as well as worms and woodlice

Rove beetles act and feed just like ground beetles, but with a wider diet. Attract them using piles of rotting wood, or leaf litter, and allow compost heaps to be in contact with the ground, as they support the churning up of composting kitchen waste just as well as worms and woodlice.

Food

  • Root maggots
  • Insect eggs
  • Various larvae
  • Mites
  • Springtails
  • Smaller beetles

Attracted to

  • Rotting wood
  • Wood piles
  • Leaf piles
  • Compost heaps
  • Leaf litter

14. Spiders

Spiders manage a balanced habitat, reducing the chances of overpopulation of any flies, and feed on everything from summer aphids to maggots and moths

Despite their reputation as creepy crawlies, spiders are actually incredibly helpful garden critters. They manage a balanced habitat, reducing the chances of overpopulation of any flies, and feed on everything from summer aphids to maggots and moths.

Larger exotic species feed on small lizards and birds, but they are rare, and in most gardens, leaving a small area of wilderness, or fallen leaf litter will provide a safe space for them to develop before forming webs to tidy the rest of your garden and reduce flying pests.

Food

  • Flies
  • Maggots
  • Worms
  • Wasps
  • Moths
  • Anything that gets caught in their web
  • Larger species can eat birds, frogs, lizards and bats

Attracted to

  • Leaf litter and mulch provides safe habitat from young spiders after hatching
  • Leave dried stems over winter
  • Allow wild areas of your garden

15. Woodlice

Woodlice are powerful soil architects, consuming decaying plant matter and helping to break it down

Woodlice are powerful soil architects, consuming decaying plant matter and helping to break it down. In the process of digesting, they actually make nutrients far more accessible to plants.

Leaving small rock piles and damp piles of rotting wood provides plenty of habitat for them, and they cause no harm to living plants.

Food

  • Decomposing plant materials

Attracted to

  • Damp rotting wood
  • Compost piles
  • Heavy mulch
  • Leaf litter
  • Rock piles

16. Slugs

Most slugs feed on decaying plant waste and are more commonly found in the compost heap than on your prized plants

It might sound a bit farfetched, but slugs are actually useful in your garden. While small common slugs are known as plant predators, most species feed on decaying plant waste and are more commonly found in the compost heap than on your prized plants.

If you ever see a striped slug in your compost, don’t dispose of it, let it be, as it’s doing hard work breaking down your kitchen waste into usable soil.

Food

  • Rotting plants materials
  • Living plant materials
  • Worms
  • Fungi

Attracted to

  • Compost pile
  • Damp areas
  • Mulching with rotting leaves or grass clippings

17. Ants

Ants help to aerate lawns on poor clay soils

Ants not only predate aphids and greenflies, but they actively farm them. By moving aphids from one plant to the next, they ensure there is never an overpopulation, seemingly understanding that aphids produce heavier stocks of honeydew (a sugary secretion that ants eat for energy in spring and summer) when they exist in smaller numbers on healthy plants.

Ants will also help to aerate lawns on poor clay soils. On dry soils, they can be a problem, creating mounds, and they cut leaves to build nests from plants like viburnum.

However, ground beetles will typically manage their populations if you have a well-balanced insect ecosystem in the garden.

Food

  • Insect eggs
  • Rotting fruit and plant materials
  • Tree sap
  • Aphids

Attracted to

  • Any loose soil
  • Early spring perennials
  • Compost piles

18. Assassin bugs

Assassin bugs are excellent if your potentially useful ant population gets out of control and begins to damage your ornamental plants

Assassin bugs are excellent if your potentially useful ant population gets out of control and begins to damage your ornamental plants.

Assassin bugs can be introduced artificially and bought online, or encouraged into the garden by using open flowers in the aster family, like daisies, or flat-topped umbellifers, like fennel.

Food

  • Most insects
  • Caterpillars
  • Mirids
  • Slugs

Attracted to

  • Daisies
  • Dandelions
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Marigolds
  • Tansy
  • Alfalfa

19. Red and Blue Beetles

Red and Blue Beetles eat soft insects like caterpillars or aphids as well as feeding on pollen and devouring insects in the larval stage too

Also known as pollen beetles, these unusual beetles have stunning colorations, with metallic wing cases striped with crimson and cyan blotches.

They eat soft insects like caterpillars or aphids as well as feeding on pollen and devouring insects in the larval stage too. If you ever see them on plants, don’t mistake them for harmful potato beetles or cucumber beetles. 

Instead, encourage a wider spread of their population by planting marigolds, asters, and sunflowers, or other sweetly scented, nectar-rich plants.

Food

  • Pollen
  • Aphids
  • Caterpillars

Attracted to

  • Daisies
  • Asters
  • Sunflowers
  • Marigolds
  • Angelica
  • Parsley
  • Dill

20. Praying Mantis

Praying Mantis are beautiful insects, but also fierce predators eating leafcutter grasshoppers and crickets in abundance

Praying mantis aren’t common in northern states, but in southern states they are fairly widespread. They are beautiful insects, but also fierce predators eating leafcutter grasshoppers and crickets in abundance.

They will; also help to control heavy populations of spiders, and are very protective of the trees and shrubs they make home, so they make short shrift of leaf-eating insects.

Raspberry canes, dill, fennel, and angelica seem to actively attract praying mantis, but it’s important to provide a mix of trees and shrubs at different levels to provide adequate mixed habitats for them.

Food

  • Grasshoppers
  • Leafcutters
  • Crickets
  • Spiders
  • Frogs
  • Lizards
  • Small birds

Attracted to

  • Raspberry
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Angelica
  • Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Mixed borders

21. Wasps

Wasp play an important role in pollination of both flowers and vegetables

As well as parasitic wasps, common wasps are beneficial insects too, playing an important role in pollination of both flowers and vegetables.

They are one of the few insects capable of pollinating tomatoes through buzz pollination and will eat small insects like aphids and mites if they are hungry enough too. 

Wasps are perhaps the most challenging insect to convince gardeners to encourage, but despite their sting, it really is worth encouraging them through fruit trees and nectar-rich flowers, especially in spring when they are looking for new homes.

Food

  • Nectar
  • Pollen
  • Small insects (aphids, mites, etc.)

Attracted to

  • Fruit trees
  • Morning Glory
  • Stock
  • Lilac
  • Nicotiana
  • Daffodils
  • Jasmine
  • Water

22. Predatory Mites

Mites of all types can be a problem in the garden, but spider mites are the most common of all. If you have regular problems with spider mites, plant spearmint around the garden to attract new predatory mites which parasitize spider mites and reduce their populations significantly.

Like many parasitic insects, they can be bought online and released into the garden, but spearmint is an effective way to invite them in naturally.

Food

  • Spider mites
  • Other herbivorous mites
  • Pollen and nectar

Attracted to

  • Spearmint

23. Minute Pirate Bugs

Pirate bugs, or minute pirate bugs, prey on pretty much every genus of damaging insects in the garden, and are particularly effective at reducing populations of psyllids, caterpillars, and aphids.

Planting flowering herbs with strong scents, like fennel and spearmint is a good way to attract them, but equally, plants like marigolds and cosmos seem to work too.

Food

  • Spider mites
  • Thrips
  • Aphids
  • Psyllids
  • Caterpillars
  • Whitefly
  • Insect eggs
  • Spiders

Attracted to

  • Marigolds
  • Caraway
  • Cosmos
  • Fennel
  • Spearmint

Read next: Common Lawn Insects and How to Prevent Them

Wrapping Up Our List of Beneficial Insects for Gardens

Not all insects are pesky critters, some like the ones above help your garden stay safe and beautiful. Plant the right plants and see your garden bloom into something that offers a mesmerizing sight. 

Let the professional gardeners help you, they have knowledge of many more such beneficial insects and will help you build a lovely garden.

About the Author Ann Katelyn

I'm Ann Katelyn, Creator and Chief Author of Sumo Gardener. Since I was a child I've always been fascinated with plants and gardens, and as an adult this has developed into my most loved hobby. I have dedicated most of my life to gardening and started Sumo Gardener as a way to express my knowledge about gardening with the hope of helping other people's gardens thrive.

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