When we plan a wildlife refuge, we often neglect unpopular creatures such as bees, spiders, and wasps. We have a habit of either gassing these creatures with bug spray or pounding the life out of them with rolled-up newspapers.
We now understand how much harm pesticides and other poisons do to the planet, but do we really want to buddy up with a bunch of bugs and invite them into our wildlife sanctuary? Of course we do! Don't forget, the bugs we dislike for bothering us and destroying plants, crops, and forests are actually mouth-watering treats for many other insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and even carnivorous plants.
There are lots of predatory insects we can lure into our gardens that will prey on the bugs we love to hate. Think of them as tiny commando troops! In Canada, there are now several companies that raise and sell predatory insects, such as ladybird beetles, aphid midges, and lacewings, in bulk to gardeners and growers.
Your garden will attract four general types of insects: plant eaters, such as aphids and butterfly caterpillars; nectar feeders like butterflies and bees; invertebrate predators that prey on insects, such as spiders, praying mantises, wasps, and robber flies; and decomposers like centipedes and isopods.
Once word gets out through the insect grapevine, all kinds of bugs will arrive. Some of them will munch away at your garden, which is why it's a good idea to provide more than one plant of each species, but don't panic. The plant feeders will attract predators, such as praying mantises and aphid midges. If you let them get on with their jobs., you can bet the predators will keep the plant feeders under control.
• Refer to "Create a Wildflower Garden" for specific instructions on how to obtain native plants and wildflowers and establish them in your garden.
• Provide a menu of plants that will tempt insect taste buds. Milkweed, for instance, is the only kind of plant that provides food for monarch butterfly larvae and milkweed bugs. Many species of solitary bees collect pollen only from sunflowers. Offering a variety of plants and wildflowers is important for your insect garden. Native goldenrods, milkweeds, sunflowers, and legumes will make a great start. Many insects will be thankful if you provide dill, parsley, fennel, Queen Anne's lace, daisies, and yarrow. Flowering herbs like sage, thyme, and lavender will attract predatory bugs. (So will catnip, but you may want to think twice about planting it if there are problem cats in your neighbourhood.) Weeds like wild mustard, dandelion, lamb's-quarters, and nettle will also attract insects.
• Arrange the plantings in clumps to concentrate food resources. It's best to provide several plants of each species.
• Make sure the plants are suited to your region. Check with your area bylaw inspector to see that none of them are classified as noxious weeds.
• Water the area regularly until the plants are well established.
• Weed out any undesirable growth.
• See "Plant Project Maintenance Tips" for further suggestions.
• Sit back, relax, and let your insect visitors do most of the work.