Imagine surveying your garden and seeing it alive with beautiful, fluttering butterflies, landing here and there, stretching their wings and showing off their amazing colors and patterns! And then looking closer, watching little ladybugs peacefully negotiating leaves and stems, and bees climbing in and out of flowers, laden with pollen.
These wonderful insects are not just intriguing to watch, they are beneficial in so many ways. Ladybugs love to eat aphids—those little sucking bugs that ruin your roses and other flowers and plants. And they eat many other types of little chewing pests that you may not even notice. Bees and butterflies pollinate your flowers, vegetables and fruit trees. Vegetables and fruits that are well pollinated are healthier and give greater yields—flowers produce bigger and better seeds for next year. In fact, almost all life on earth depends on pollinating insects, birds, bats and mammals. A definite reason to invite beneficial insects into your garden!
Welcoming these little workers and keeping them in your yard is fun and easy. It just takes a little knowledge of their requirements.
The first step in keeping butterflies, bees and other beneficial bugs in your yard is to avoid or at least be frugal in your use of insecticides and pesticides. Many of these kill not only the “bad” bugs, but the “good” bugs too, making the job of keeping plant life healthy even more difficult. If you must use insecticides, research them well. There are non-toxic ways of dealing with pest bugs, such as knocking them into a jar of soapy water. And there are many other ways to destroy pests that don’t use chemicals. Use your internet browser to search for organic methods of pest control.
Be careful what you kill! Ladybugs go through three stages before they actually look like a ladybug! First are the eggs, then the larvae, then the pupa. Each of these may look like an insect pest to the untrained eye. Butterflies also go through a similar cycle, starting with an egg, then the larva, caterpillar, pupa or chrysalis, then a butterfly. Try to identify what it is before you go and squash that little cluster of eggs or step on a caterpillar!
Butterflies feed on nectar from flowers, and in turn pick up pollen which they bring to the next flower they visit. But they will also sip nectar from a butterfly feeder! And there are many beautiful butterfly feeders that can be hung or staked in the garden. Butterflies also drink water for the minerals it provides. They will visit birdbaths, puddles, even special “butterfly baths”. Butterflies also need shelter to protect them from wind, weather and predators. Try putting up a butterfly house!
Ladybugs will find plenty of food in your garden, but they need shelter during the night. Ladybugs also hibernate in winter! Offer them a ladybug house where they can gather for shelter. If your ladybugs have a place to spend the winter in your yard, you can enjoy their hard work first thing in the spring when they wake up!
Some people love bees and love their honey! If you want bees in your yard to pollenize your plants, but aren’t interested in beekeeping, there is a solution! Mason bees are fantastic pollinators and are easy to shelter. They aren’t honey makers, but are solitary bees that don’t congregate in a hive like honey and bumblebees do. They are also a gentle American bee and safe to have around. They lay their eggs in compartments of mud in hollow reeds or in holes bored by insects. But they will also use manmade nesting tubes and houses. Try placing a few Mason Bee Nest Kits on your property.
When you provide just a few necessities, you’ll be able to keep these beneficial insects in your garden. Your plants will be healthier and more productive, and you’ll love the constant color and activity!