Beneficial Insects

Before I can think about what I want to harvest for food, I think about what I want to bring to my garden, the great volunteer army of beneficial insects. These creatures are both pollinators and predators that prey on the very insects that gobble up our vegetables.

If I were forced to choose only one plant it would be Goldenrod (Solidago spp.). Incredibly, it hosts more than 70 species of beneficial insects. My second choice would be Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota). Other top-of-the-list candidates are Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis). So please think twice before culling those “weeds” out of your lawn, or better yet, get rid of the lawn and plant a meadow. Lawn care takes the lion’s share of toxins released into the environment.

Our best allies are predatory wasps, hoverflies, robber flies, and all those little creatures that go virtually unseen while our gardens flourish because of their presence. But they have big appetites for nectar-rich, tiny open flowers such as those that make up the blooms of Queen Anne’s Lace and Goldenrod, along with many others. You have seen that this blog contains long lists and this entry is no exception. I will organize plant species that attract beneficial insects according to their life cycles: annual, biennial, and perennial. All can be container grown and remember that even the hardy ones need some protection over winter. And keep in mind that the degree of tenderness in a perennial is determined by comparing its temperature tolerance range with your local climate zone, a subject covered earlier. Please note that edibles in this group must be allowed to flower, after which they usually are none too edible. But do allow at least one to flower for the beneficial insects and seed saving.

PERENNIAL PLANTS FOR BENEFICIAL INSECTS

Goldenrod (Solidago spp)

Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile)

Mint (Mentha spp)

Catnip, Catmint, etc. (Nepeta spp)

Savory (Satureja montana)

Thyme (Thymus spp)

Lavender (Lavandula spp) *some of these are tender

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis & spp) *tender

Oregano (Origanum vulgare & spp) *some are tender

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium)

Anise Hyssop (Agastache spp)

Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis)

Yarrow (Achillea spp)

Horehound (Marrubium spp)

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

BIENNIAL PLANTS FOR BENEFICIAL INSECTS

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria)

ANNUALS FOR BENEFICIAL INSECTS

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Anise (Pimpinella anisum)

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)

Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis)

Basil (Ocimum spp)

Mustard (Brassica juncea)

Borage (Borago officinalis)

African Marigold (Tagetes erecta)

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia spp)




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