How to Make the Good Crawlies Love You

By Sam Kirkwood

Not all bugs you find in your garden are pests – here are some that are great little garden helpers!

Ladybugs

These spotted bugs are an excellent ally in the garden. There are four main types commonly found in gardens across Australia. The common spotted ladybug is bright orange or red, with several black spots on its back and an appetite for aphids, scale bugs and mites. There’s also the fungus-eating ladybug, which is patterned with bright yellow and black patches and eats several kinds of fungus and mildew, and the mealybug-eating ladybug which has a solid black body and red head. All three of these crawlies are a welcome friend in the garden - however, be careful not to confuse them for the 28-spotted ladybug. This orange ladybug with, you guessed it, 28 spots, is a voracious leaf-eater and will feast on your lovely plants. If you see any of these pests on your plants, make sure to remove them and evict them from the premises!

Ladybugs are attracted to nectar-rich flowers, so try growing some strongly scented plants with flat, landing-pad like flowers, like pelargoniums, cosmos, angelica and marigolds, or herbs such as chives, coriander, and dill. This is an especially good idea if you’re growing plants that aphids love, like nasturtiums or roses, as the ladybugs will help to keep the aphid population under control.

Lacewing

These tiny flies with delicate, transparent wings are fierce nocturnal predators. They will prey on small grubs, aphids, whitefly, and mealybugs. In fact, lacewing larvae are often called aphid lions! Their eggs look like tiny white dots, sticking out from the stems of plants on thin hair-like threads – gardeners often unwittingly remove them. However, these tiny winged beasts are worth keeping around. They like small, flat flowers that are clustered together, as well as the same herbs that ladybugs like above.

Hoverflies

These bugs look like tiny bees as they have a similar yellow and black colouration, meant to deter predators. As their name would suggest, they tend to hover in one spot in the air, before darting away quickly to one side. The larvae of these bugs munch on a variety of pests, including aphids, scale, thrips, and caterpillars. The mature flies will also help your garden in another way - by pollinating your flowers. Hoverflies are strongly attracted to bright yellow or white flowers, like marigolds, calendulas, and Queen Anne’s lace.

Bees

Speaking of pollination, bees are absolutely essential to any garden. Without them, your flowers won’t open, and you won’t grow any veggies. When planning a veggie garden, make sure to include some flowering plants to encourage bees to visit.

How else can you help these helpers? 

Make a bug hotel!

Bugs can have a hard time finding a nice place to stay in the city. We’ve removed a lot of the habitat where they would normally set up camp, and even parks are kept clean and tidy of suitable bug hideouts like fallen branches and trees. You can help the local bug population and your garden by building a bug hotel where your neighbourhood creepy crawlies can live and lay their eggs.

First, you’ll need some kind of box (open on one side) made of a sturdy, weatherproof material. You could make a box out of some timber planks, but an old wooden box or plastic crate would work as well.

Next, you need to add the hotel rooms. Bamboo sticks are perfect for this, as the hollow sections inside the wood provide an ideal habitat for many bugs. You could also use straws or any other kind of long, hollow material. Some bugs prefer a different kind of accommodation, so to cater to everyone you can also add sections of sticks, pinecones, seed heads, wood shavings - really anything you can find around your garden that won’t rot after being outside for a while.

Hopefully, the bugs will appreciate your efforts and you’ll have a few move in for the winter! We look forward to seeing your hotels in our Facebook group, or hearing about them on our podcast, EncourageMINT!


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