Many gardeners are intent on keeping bugs out of their garden, but I’m happy to invite them in for a visit, and then encourage them to make themselves right at home inside my veggie garden! Of course I’m referring to beneficial insects; the ones that pollinate flowers and feast on the bad bugs for dinner.

Rather than purchase Ladybugs, Mantis cases, or other beneficials, I take a different approach by raising flowering plants that will naturally attract pollinators and provide them with food and shelter. I also resist applying poisonous sprays to the landscape because they can wipe out beneficial insects right alongside of the destructive ones.

Reducing Pesticide Sprays to Encourage the Beneficials to Stay

Flowering PerennialThis is the third season since I began making a concerted effort to add more native plants to my landscape. It’s been longer than that since I decided to stop spraying any type of pesticide in the garden; including the organic types. The problem with spraying any pesticide is that if it has an impact on the harmful insects it’s likely to hurt the populations of beneficial insects as well.

If you do need to spray, target only the insects that are doing significant damage and threatening an entire crop or harvest. And spot spray so that the organic pesticide is only being applied to the specific crop that is in jeopardy. As crazy as it may sound, I actually want there to be some aphids, cabbage worms, and other destructive insects around just to help make the predators fat and happy, and to give them a reason to multiply!

Plants and Insects were Created for Each Other!

I’m amazed by the insects that I see on a daily basis and plan to put in additional beds devoted to native plants to attract even more beneficial insects. Some of the popular plants with my pollinators include; Bee Balm, Butterfly Weed, Sunflowers, Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, Coneflower, Phlox, Goldenrod, Mint, Phacelia, Boneset, and Asters.

The tiny beneficial insects are especially attracted to the clusters of compound flowers produced by plants such as Yarrow, Dill, Fennel, Alyssum, and Skirret. One surprising plant on their menu has been Rattlesnake Master, which I don’t think is much to look at, but the pollinators are sure drawn to it.

In terms of pollinator insects the garden is hosting; Bumble Bees, Wasps, Digger Bees, Moths, Hover Flies, Squash Bees, Butterflies, Leafcutter Bees, Cuckoo Wasps, Mason Bees, and other pollinating insects. And it’s not just pollinators getting in on the action; there are also plenty of beetles, soldier bugs, mantids, spiders, and other good bugs patrolling the grounds.

The Beauty and Diversity of Insect Life in the Garden

Here are some photos of the incredible insects visiting the garden this season (if anything is unidentified or misidentified please comment):

Bee on Flower1. Pollen covered legs look like stockings to match this bee’s colors.

Blue Winged Wasp2. Beautiful Blue-Winged Scoliid Wasp, one of my favorite beneficials.

Hummingbird Moth3. A Hummingbird Moth sipping on nectar.

Potter Wasps4. Pair of Potter Wasps, one has white stripes the other has yellow.

Bumble Bee5. A nice fat Bumble Bee on Phlox flowers.

Golden Digger Wasp6. The largest wasp I’ve seen here; a Great Golden Digger Wasp.

Bee on Mexican Sunflower7. Tiny bee on a Mexican Sunflower.

Cuckoo Wasp8. This one sure looks like an infamous Cuckoo Wasp to me!

Paper Wasp9. Paper Wasp on a Swamp Milkweed.

Hover Fly10. Is it a wasp, is it a bee? I think it’s a Hover Fly!

Brown Wasp11. Brown wasp, could be another type of Potter Wasp.

Fuzzy Bumble Bee12. An unusual fuzzy and light colored Bumble Bee.

Bee on Calendula13. Complete guess on this one, a Leaf Cutter Bee maybe.

Ichneumon Wasp14. Another guess here; some type of Ichneumon Wasp.

Getting Resourceful with Beneficial Insects in Your Garden

That’s just a tiny fraction of the good bugs that visit my garden every day. I could stake out a single flower and see a diversity of insect life.

I’ve noticed a definite increase in the beneficial insects that are present in my garden. And it’s not just the quantity, there’s also the great variety of beneficial insects that do more than just pollinate the flowers; they are also predators and play a role in the overall health and productivity of the plants in our vegetable gardens and fruit orchards.

If you want to see more life in your garden; eliminate the poisons from your soil and air, plant more flowering and native plant varieties, and check out some of these resources for increasing your populations of beneficial insects:

And for even more photos of the beneficial insects that are hanging out in the garden this season, browse my Pinterest Beneficial Insects Page which is focused on pollinators, predators, and other good bugs.


Burpee Bee Garden

Burpee’s Early Season Garden Writer’s Gathering

July 2, 2015

Last Friday I was invited to Burpee’s Fordhook Farm to participate in an Early Season Garden Writer’s Gathering. This event was an opportunity to tour the farm and trial gardens, explore an organic kitchen garden, attend gardening presentations, mingle with other garden writers and members of Burpee’s team, indulge in some great food, and other interesting […]

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Wine Cap Mushrooms

How to Simplify Growing Mushrooms

June 19, 2015

Most people get it backwards! They love mushrooms, and think Chanterelles are wonderful, so they look for Chanterelle spawn. If they manage to find it, they are disappointed to learn that Chanterelles require conditions which are not present in their own back yard or home. They sigh, and give up, because they are just too […]

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FLEX Power Base and Mower

At Home with FLEX, Troy-Bilt’s New Yard Care System

June 3, 2015

I shared previously about my participation in Troy-Bilt’s Saturday6 Program and that I would be writing and conducting product reviews for the company. Well the next step was making the tough decision of selecting one product from their line up for my first review. I went back and forth before finally choosing the brand new FLEX to trial […]

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Spring Garden Photo

Growing Edible Perennials in the Backyard Vegetable Garden

May 27, 2015

There is nothing like raising edible perennials to get a big jump on the growing season and to help reduce your planting chores in early spring. I incorporate traditional perennial vegetables as well as those that are more common in permaculture gardening circles. It’s great to enjoy a lush, green garden and early harvests without […]

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Troy Bilt Tillers

Introducing the Troy-Bilt Saturday 6

March 30, 2015

My recent getaway to Charleston, SC wasn’t simply an escape from the long and cold winter, but the result of an invitation to participate in Troy-Bilt’s Saturday 6 program. I have had very positive experiences with the Troy-Bilt brand so it didn’t take long for me to accept the invitation, join the new Saturday 6 team, and […]

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Winter Garden Photo

A Look Back at the Fall Vegetable Garden

March 9, 2015

This winter has seen nothing but one wave after another of cold, ice, and snow, to the point that I haven’t been able to actually see the garden at all over the past couple months. That’s not entirely bad as the consistent snow cover provided insulation and will help protect over wintering plants from the […]

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Reishi mushroom

More Ideas for Cultivating Mushrooms in the Home and Garden

October 9, 2014

The fall season is a perfect time to explore the fascinating world of backyard mushroom cultivation. I’ll start by sharing some of the delicious edible fungi that is currently springing up right outside in and around my garden. Then I’ll share some info on mushrooms picked up at the recent Mother Earth News Fair, and […]

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Mother Earth News Fair

The Mother Earth News Fair Returns to Pennsylvania

October 1, 2014

The 2014 Mother Earth News Fair that took place in Seven Springs, PA a couple weekends ago was a great event and I walked away with many new ideas and techniques to try out in the garden and to share with you here on the Veggie Gardening Tips website! Normally the downside of a fall […]

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