Insects are even more important to your garden than you may have realised, so deciding the right plants and flowers to attract them is in the best interests of every gardener. To set your garden up for success, here’s why insects are so vital and seven common insects you can attract to your garden.
Why are insects important for my garden?
Insects are crucial to a healthy garden for two reasons:
Some insects, such as bees, are vital for pollination. By flying from one plant to another and passing pollen from the female part of plants to the male part, pollinator insects help plants to produce seeds, creating more plants.
Other insects are predatory and help your garden by reducing the number of insects that may feed on your flowers, plants, fruits or vegetables. For example, some insects like to eat aphids or even slugs, both of which would happily feast on your beloved garden without a second thought.
7 insects you want in your garden:
When you first see a hoverfly and their yellow and black pattern, you might think it’s a wasp, but don’t worry! Hoverflies don’t sting and they’re great for your garden. You can tell the difference as they don’t have long antennae or a bulgy abdomen.
Why are Hoverflies good for your garden?
Adult hoverflies eat nectar and pollen while their larvae eat aphids and other garden pests, which makes them the perfect combination of pollinators and pest controllers.
Plants that Hoverflies like:
- Lemon Balm.
- Poached Egg Plant.
Butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera):
Butterflies and moths are both part of the same family, Lepidoptera, of which there are 2,500 species in Britain. Butterflies often have bright colours and patterns, fly during the day, drink nectar from flowers with straw-like tongues, and have clubbed antennae with vertical wings when resting.
Moths, however, are nocturnal and hold their wings horizontally when resting. Their antennae are either hair-like or feathery (and you’d prefer to see them in your garden than in your wardrobe!).
Why are butterflies and moths good for your garden?
Butterflies and moths are important pollinators, but they’re also a crucial part of the food chain for other creatures that may visit your garden. For example, Blue Tits are believed to eat about 50 billion moth caterpillars every year across Britain and Ireland.
Plants that butterflies like:
- Perennial wallflower.
Plants that moths like:
- Evening primrose.
- Night Scented Stock.
- Sweet Rocket.
Solitary Bees (Hymenoptera):
Named by their tendency to live alone rather than in colonies, there are over 200 species of solitary bee in Britain. For example, there’s the Mason Bee, making its nests in hollow reeds or wood with holes in, and the Leaf-Cutter Bee, which cuts circles out of rose petals and nest in dead plant stems or old flowerpots.
No matter where they create their nests, females will fill them with nectar and pollen, then seal it and leave the larvae to make their way into the world.
You can tell them apart from honeybees as solitary bees don't have pollen baskets on their hind legs. To help solitary bees feel safe enough to nest, you can create your own “bee hotel” by binding hollow stems and twigs together near a tree, hedge, or flowers.
Why are Solitary Bees good for your garden?
Like all kinds of bees, the solitary bee is a natural pollinator, so they’ll help your flowers and plants to thrive.
Plants that Solitary Bees like:
- Cat mintbuddleia.
- Perennial Wallflower.
Parasitic wasps (Hymenoptera):
Although Parasitic Wasps sound (and look) a little scary, they’re an amazing garden protector and they don’t sting. They help to protect your garden from other insects by laying their eggs on, or in, other insects. Once hatched, these larvae eat the host alive.
Why are Parasitic Wasps good for your garden?
They’ll eat many insects that would love to eat their way through your garden, such as caterpillars, sawflies, ants, and aphids. In fact, they’re so good at it that they’re bred on an industrial scale for the protection of fields and greenhouses.
Plants that Parasitic Wasps like:
Lacewings, named after their delicate, transparent wings, are a visitor that adds a touch of beauty to your garden with wings that are almost twice as long as their abdomen.
Males and females vibrate their abdomens to create “courtship songs” when trying to mate, producing a low frequency sound that may attract a mate.
Why are Lacewings good for your garden?
Lacewings, both in their larvae and adult form, will protect your garden from aphids and insect eggs. Here’s an interesting, yet gory fact… The larvae have specialised mouthparts that interlock like pincers, which they use to impale prey and then suck out their internal contents through hollow food channels between the jaws.
Plants that Lacewings like:
Ground beetle (Carabidae):
Ground Beetles, as you might expect, spend their time on the ground. They are mostly nocturnal and love to rest in shade during the day, such as under wood piles, leaves, or under stones.
If they feel threatened, they will emit a highly irritant fluid from the tip of their abdomen, although this poses no danger to humans. Female beetles may also use this to deter males if they do not want to mate.
Why are Ground Beetles good for your garden?
Ground beetles love slugs and snails, and even eat weeds, so they couldn’t be more perfect for the health of your garden.
Plants that Ground Beetles like:
Ground beetles love plants that will cover them during the day, such as:
Everyone loves a ladybird, with their bright red or orange shells and spots, ranging from two to 18. If you see these in your garden, you’re doing well, because they’ll help to protect it from other insects.
Why are Ladybirds good for your garden?
Despite their dainty appearance, ladybirds are carnivores, eating aphids and red spider mites. Not only this, but they’ll lay eggs in aphid—or other plant-eating insect—colonies and their larvae can eat up to 5,000 aphids. Better them than your prized vegetables.
Plants that Ladybirds like:
- Carpet Bugleweed.
Get to know your garden wildlife!
Under every log and leaf, we’ve been hiding all kinds of articles on garden wildlife. For a garden that’s filled with Britain’s most beautiful (and useful) creatures, read all our Beginner’s Guides to Garden Wildlife:
- Beginner’s Guide to Garden Wildlife
- Beginner’s Guide to Hedgehogs
- Beginner’s Guide to Foxes
- Beginner’s Guide to Birds
- Beginner’s Guide to Voles
- Beginner’s Guide to Toads & Newts
Garden not looking ready for six-legged insect guests? Take a look through our Cordless Garden Equipment for eco-friendly tools that’ll keep your garden and its ecosystem looking good.