Trunkline Magazine (Louisville Zoo) Trunkline Magazine: June 2017 - Page 18

GARDEN TALK Benefiting from Beneficial Bugs Now that spring planting is over and you’re enjoying the benefi ts of all of your effort, this is a great time to let others help you maintain your garden. One of the most overlooked and undervalued allies in maintaining and promoting a healthy garden are insects. Insects perform important “ecosystem services” that are benefi cial to all of our gardens and the environment. They are vital as pollinators, meaning they are essential for most food crops and fl owering plants, and many are important predators of “pests” in backyard gardens. Did you know the reason some insects don’t become pests is due to other predatory insects in the environment? These insects are known as “benefi cial” insects. What does it mean to be “benefi cial”? The concept of benefi cial is actually a term that is only really appropriate when applied to desired goals from a human perspective. In farming/agriculture, where the goal is to produce selected crops. Insects that hinder the production process are classifi ed as pests, while insects that assist production are Lacewing: a predator insect who eats backyard pests. considered benefi cial. Out of about a million species of insects, humans consider less than three percent as pests. Learning to identify and value the benefi cial garden insects for the necessary roles they play is benefi cial to you and the environment. What are some of the more common benefi cial insect species you might fi nd in your garden? Praying mantids, green lacewings, assassin bugs, lady beetles and stag beetles. So, what can you do to promote and attract these benefi cial insects to your garden? • Minimize or don’t use pesticides. The most important thing you can do to protect and encourage benefi cial insects in your garden and land- 18 • Louisville Zoo Trunkline • Summer 2017 scape is to choose insecticides with care. Many "benefi cials" are more sensitive to the insec- ticides than the pests you are trying to control. • Choose native plant species for your garden. Pollinators are attracted to a wide variety of native species and many adult predator insects also feed on nectar and pollen. Provide a small source of water for benefi - cial insects by putting out a shal- low dish of water with stones to allow them dry places to land. Be sure to clean it often so you don’t attract mosquitos! • Consider creating a ‘No Mow Zone’ in your yard if possible. This is a designated area that is only mowed only one or two times a year and allows native plants to regenerate through succession. Treat these benefi cial insects like your gardening allies, and they are sure to become one of your favorite garden addi- tions. Happy gardening!