Roots 'n' Shoots: Insectary: Beneficial Insects & Garden Security Force

Why is RnS Moving to

Google had brought out an algorithm update in May 2017. With previous updates like Panda or Penguin, Mr G had penalized blogs or websites with low quality content and those more focused on aggressive adverts (including multiple ads or pop-up ads in articles). However, many blogs/websites that weren't shady got penalized beyond recovery too and a lot of people lost their income. The May 2017 update has had wide-scale effect on blogs and websites, but without any explanation from Mr G as to why or what it does. RnS has been hit by it too and hard. RnS organic search stats (i.e. users from Google) have dropped by 75% since. Even though RnS is not a source of income, I tried to figure out why RnS is being culled. It seems that it doesn't really have anything to do with RnS per se, but likely because RnS is FREE and not paying for page ranking (via AdWords or Ad Ranking). Now it is likely being aggressively shoved to lower page rankings to accommodate the paid ads.

I cannot rely on Mr G anymore to get RnS' content where it is needed. So I am busy moving RnS to Wordpress where you can find me as Whisker Flowers @

I am also imposing 301 redirects from already moved posts and pages!

- The Shroom - (AKA Whisker Flowers)

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Insectary: Beneficial Insects & Garden Security Force

The Wildlife Garden - How to attract beneficial insects to your garden

Integrative Pest Management (IPM) is the use of multiple pest preventative measures, such as diverse crop planting, crop rotation, green manures and responsible pesticide use. Enlisting the help of beneficial insects is also used to control pest populations and improve crop production.

Insectaries are plants that provide housing, shelter and food for beneficial insects. They do not only attract insects to the garden, but provide an area for them to establish themselves and remain in the garden. Insectaries are great for attracting a myriad of wildlife to the garden, such as bees, butterflies, various other pollinators (wasps, flies and beetles) as well as predatory insects such as hover flies, ladybirds, praying mantids and spiders.

I have tried many of the artificial insect home designs, most remain unoccupied, even after being in the garden for two years. The only one that has been populated is House Wasp, see here for details. I have noticed that the insects prefer plants to purpose built insect homes and I have decided to rather make an insectary in my garden.

Several scientific studies have recorded the successes of these insectaries. Insectaries increase the amount of beneficial insects by 10-fold as compared to plots without one (AKA the control plot). Mortality of pest insects due to predation and parasitism was double as compared to the controls. The beneficial insect numbers remain the same, even if no flowers were present, indicating that they do not leave if no pollen or nectar rewards are present. (Ref 1)

One thing to keep in mind is that the insectary should provide food – not only pollen and nectar, but prey items too. This means that you must incorporate plants that attract pests (sink or source plants); also known as sacrificial or decoys among companion planting. If you do not provide food – the predators will leave. This also means no chemical pesticides!

Another tip is to leave the insectary undisturbed, with minimal pruning of the plants. There is a 75-95% reduction of spiders, parasitic wasps, ladybug adults and larvae in clear-cut plots when compared to strip harvest plots (Ref 2).

A successful insectary has the following characteristics:
ü    Plants provide blooms throughout the year
ü    Plants of varying size and height provide shelter for insects in different niches
ü    Is a long term and permanent feature of the garden
ü    Densely planted and interconnected by plants with little disturbance
ü    Provides small flowers for parasitoids (insect parasites), hover flies, wasps and robber flies
ü    Provides large and long flowers for butterflies, bees and flies.
ü    Provides sturdy herbaceous shrubs for mantids to lay their egg casings against
ü    Provides perennial and annual plants
ü    Diverse types of plants (usually 6-7 types)

Dill flowers

(Niche: Spatial or dietary condition where specific organisms are found, such as tree-dwelling, ground-dwelling, carnivore or herbivore.)

There are specific plants that attract specific pests. The best way to design your insectary is to known:
1)                  Which pests you struggle with
2)                  Predators of your problem pests
3)                  Plants that attract predators and those can act as decoys for pests
4)                  Cost and maintenance of these plants

On that note; here is a table with pest predators and the plants that can help:

Predator or Parasitoids
Parasitoid wasp, Parasitoid midge, Damsel bugs (Nabidae),  Dicyphus bugs (Miridae), Hoverflies, Lacewings, Ladybugs (Ladybird or Lady Beetle), Pirate Bugs (Flower bugs, Anthocoridae), Baby mantids
Mantids, Ground beetles, Paper wasps (Vespidae), Mud daubers wasps (Sphecidae), Parasitoid wasp
Eggs of pest insects
Damsel bugs (Nabidae), Parasitoid wasp, Hover fly larvae
Damsel bugs (Nabidae), Mantids, Spiders, Lacewings, Ladybugs (Ladybird or Lady Beetle), Mud daubers wasps (Sphecidae)
Mealy Bugs
Mealy bug ladybird, Parasitoid wasp, Lacewings
Red spider mites
Predatory mites, Dicyphus bugs (Miridae), Ladybugs (Ladybird or Lady Beetle), Pirate Bugs (Flower bugs, Anthocoridae)
Scale bugs
Lacewings, Ladybugs (Ladybird or Lady Beetle), Parasitoid wasp
Ground beetles, Predatory snails (Rumina decollate)
Dicyphus bugs (Miridae), Parasitoid wasp

Damsel bugs (Nabidae)
Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel)
Dicyphus bugs (Miridae)
Digitalis (Foxglove), Verbascum thapsus (Great or common mullein).
Ground beetles
Amaranthus (Amaranth) or ground covers (creeping thyme, oregano)
Aurinia saxatilis (Golden Alyssum), Convolvulus minor (Dwarf morning glory), Cosmos bipinnatus (Garden Cosmos), Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace, wild carrot)+, Iberis umbellate (Candy Tuft), Limonium latifolium (Statice), Lupinus spp. (Lupin), Petroselinum crispum (Parsley).
Ladybugs (Ladybird or Lady Beetle)
Mealy bug ladybird*
Achillea filipendulina  (Yarrow), Anethum graveolens (Dill), Convolvulus minor (Dwarf morning glory), Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace, wild carrot)+, Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel), Tanacetum vulgare (Tansy)
Achillea filipendulina (Yarrow), Angelica gigas (Angelica), Anethum graveolens (Dill), Cosmos bipinnatus (Garden Cosmos), Daucus carota (Queen Anne's lace, wild carrot)+, Foeniculum vulgare (Fennel), Tanacetum vulgare (Tansy)
Sturdy herbaceous herbs (Rosemary, Basil, Lavender)
Paper wasps
Aggregate fruit flowers (Raspberry, Strawberry, Dewberry and Blackberry)
Parasitoid midge
Anethum graveolens (Dill), Lupinus spp. (Lupin)
Parasitoid wasp
Achillea filipendulina  (Yarrow), Anethum graveolens (Dill), Cosmos bipinnatus (Garden Cosmos), Lupinus spp. (Lupin), Helianthus annuus (Sunflower), Limonium latifolium (Statice), Melissa officinalis (Lemon balm), Petroselinum crispum (Parsley)
Pirate Bugs (Flower bugs, Anthocoridae)
Helianthus annuus (Sunflower), Leucanthemum X superbum (Shasta daisy)
Predatory mites*
Helianthus annuus (Sunflower), Leucanthemum X superbum (Shasta daisy)
Predatory snails (Rumina decollate)*
Burrows in the soil.
Structural plants – Our Sterlitzea and herbs (basil and rosemary) provide shelter and web support.
*Can be purchased
+ Flowers with similar structure: Ammi majus (Bishop flower), Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow parsley)

The table is a generalised list of plants to attract insects. It is the flower shape and structure and the specific species that attracts beneficial insects. Many small flowers in Umbels (umbrella shaped) attract predatory insects, such as lady bugs, hoverflies, parasitoids.  Most of the plants used to attract insects belong to the Parsley family (Apiaceae), for pollen and nectar, or the Aromatic herb family (Lamiaceae), for shelter and housing. Sacrificial plants include rue, nasturtiums, milkweed, marigold and the mustard family. Alliums (Onions, garlic, chives) also produce lovely umbel flowers.

Carrot flowers
Daucus carota

Umbel flowers & Candy Tuft
Note on parasitoids: Parasitic wasps and midges are good biological control agents that can be easily purchased for garden release. The problems with them are that they need specific temperatures and humidities. The wind will blow them away and they will fly away without attacking pests when released into the garden, which make them more suited to indoor greenhouse use than for the conventional vegetable garden.

Several plant species are better suited than others to attract pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. Yarrow, Angelica, Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii), Sunflowers, Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), Rosemary (Rosmatinus officinalis), Basil (Ocimum basilicum), Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) and Tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) are the most effective at attracting butterflies, bees, bumble bees, hoverflies and moths. I am not going to plant butterfly-specific plants as our area has a general deficit in these. Basil and Lavender produce flowers throughout the year, whereas Dill and Fennel can be planted in autumn and winter, and the Sterlitzea  and Aloes are late flowering (winter).

Sterlitzea visited by Honey Bee (Apis mellifera)
So in my garden I have issues with aphids, whitefly, leafhoppers, scale bugs and caterpillars. This means I am going to try a combination of: Lavender, Dill, Buddleja, Mints, Creeping thyme, Mint-Basil, Alfalfa, Parsley and Fennel. I also planted a sea lavender, iceplants (AKA plakkie: Aptenia hybrid 'Red apple') and rose mosses (Portulaca grandiflora).  I have raspberries in the garden already. I have a range of other ornamentals and herbs in the garden that I do allow to flower for a short time, which should also double as ‘mini and temporary’ insectaries.

Remember that your insectary will also appreciate some pruning (3Ds) (during winter) and fertilisation (I think once a month should suffice).

The insects discussed here have already or will feature in Pest of the Month or Garden Critter of the Month articles; such as Mantids, WaspsLeafhoppers and Flies have already been covered. Otherwise you can check out my Pest Control page for some organic pest control recipes to complement your insectary and IPM.

Onion Flower
Allium cepa

- Note -

Before I purchased the Butterfly bush, statice (sea lavender) and rose mosses there were nasturtiums and indigenous edible flowers (Daisies and Marigolds) in there places. I plucked these out because they either didn't flower properly or I had to deadhead them every day and they used way to much water in my opinion. Hence why I opted for more water friendly, long flowering and low-maintenance plants.

My Insectary as of Yesterday (6 Dec). It has been growing since August.

Latest Insectary Resident

Which pests plague your garden? Would you make space for an insectary in your garden?

- Update 05 January 2014 -

If you struggle with getting any of these specific plant cultivars, I have found that the best way to get other alternatives is to check were masses of bees are in the nurseries or garden centres. A few winners are:

A: False Heather, Cuphea mexicana. These are small-medium bushed that can be easily shaped with white, pink and purple flowers.
B: Garden Heliotrope, Heliotropium species (likely arborescens). These are beautiful dark green plants with large leaves and big clusters of small purple flowers.
C & D: Butterfly Bush, Buddleja davidii. Wonderful plants with silver foliage and usually lilac flowers. New varieties are always available in nurseries, including a lovely white and striking magenta. They love the sun and are super water-friendly as well, suitable for xeriscaping.

Butterfly and Bee Friendly plants
Very similar inflorescence (arrangement of flowers)
Tiny flowers with lots of nectar = insect buffet

My magenta butterfly bush's flowers are open yet, will post once they do. Also, the butterfly bushes have lovely perfumed flowers.

Another firm favourite is the Mealy Sage or Mealycup Sage, Salvia farinacea. It comes in a lilac and deep purples (or true blue) and they have a delicate aroma as well.

Mealy or MealyCup Sage
Salvia farninacea

Some plants aren't readily available as seedlings, but their are some seeds available; such as

Verbena species (hybrida likely): Comes in all kinds of colours and are very striking in the garden.

Statice sinuata (Sea Lavender): Annual variety with long papery flower spikes that last forever as cut flowers (dry in vase without loosing colour). Also they come in a huge variety of colours. Another sun loving plant that is super water efficient. You might also notice them growing wild in the bushveld!

Or, you can just pick up a bumper pack of bird, bee or butterfly flower garden mixes.

Variety of seeds available for you wildlife garden
Statice, Verbena & mixes

P.S - Do note that if you want reputable vegetable seeds, then Stark Ayres seeds are the superior option, as for flowers, grab what you can get your paws on! J


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