While you peruse the seed catalogs in the coming weeks, don’t forget to provide food and habitat for beneficial insects such as lacewings, lady bugs, stink bugs, hover flies, assassin bugs, and parasitic wasps. By attracting beneficials to our gardens, we can get away from using insecticide . . . and avoiding insecticide is the very best thing we can do for our bees.
Beneficial insects are the ones that eat critters we don’t want in our gardens—pests like aphids, beetles, mealybugs, mites, thrips, leafhoppers, and grubs. But to keep the beneficials around, we must provide good homes for them, as well as a plentiful supply of flowers. Flowers that produce pollen and nectar provide the nutrients adult beneficials need to produce large numbers of eggs—all of which turn into aphid-munching, grub-slurping larvae.
Even when the “meat” is in short supply—as when they’ve eaten all your aphids—many of the beneficial species consume nectar as a source of carbohydrates and pollen as a source of fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. To keep your beneficials happy throughout the growing season, you must provide a succession of flowers. Something must always be in bloom.
Conveniently for us, the Hudson Valley Seed Library has packaged a seed mix called “Good Bug Blooms.” Each packet contains cosmos, annual gaillardia, zinnias, blue cornflower, sweet alyssum, flax, chamomile, and several other varieties of beneficial bug food—500 seeds in all. Not only that, but the packets themselves are gorgeous works of art. As the seed library states it, “Heirloom Seeds and Contemporary Art, All in One Pack.”
By the way, it’s easy to get lost in the stacks at the Hudson Valley Seed Library. Have a look around their website—you’ll surely come away with more than one packet of seeds.