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Attracting Beneficial Insects

You can entice beneficials to frequent your yard and garden by providing them with the three basic necessities: water, food, and shelter.

A water source will attract most kinds of beneficials ( as well as insect eating birds and toads), especially during dry spells. Fill shallow pans with water  and set them in protected nooks and corners of your garden. Set rocks in the pans to serve as insect perches.

Access to suitable food is vital for beneficials. During various stages of their life, beneficials may need different types of food. Larvae, for instance, often prey on pests, while adults feed on pollen and nectar. Small flowered plants are ideal food sources
for beneficials. Particularly good choices include members of the plant families Umbelliferae (such as dill, lovage, parsley, and fennel) and Labiatae (including
mint, hyssop, catnip, and lemon balm). Plant these herbs among your flowers and vegetables to attract beneficials in areas where pests are a problem. Clover and buckwheat are also good food sources.

Once they have food and water, beneficials will look for a safe place to live and to lay their eggs. Provide shelter by adding organic mulches like straw, leaves, or compost to the soil surface around plants and along paths. Beneficials also appreciate the protection of trees, perennial plantings, and cover crops that aren't  frequently disturbed by harvest and tillage.

You can maintain a friendly environment for beneficials by avoiding  pesticides. Even organically acceptable chemicalslike rotenone will wipe out beneficials as readily as pests. Often, pest populations recover more quickly than the beneficials and multiply unchecked. This leads to a vicious circle- you'll need to apply stronger control measures and the beneficials will not get a chance to recover.

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