I’ve already covered planting to deter aphids and encouraging toads into the garden to munch away slugs, snails and other garden pests. Everything in nature is in fine balance and in just the same way that certain bugs are determined to eat their way through our efforts in the garden, so Mother Nature has given us other insects that are the natural enemies of the garden marauders and are therefore our friends. There are many garden friendly insects but the two most recognisable are the pretty green lacewing (Chrysoperla rufilabris …seen above), and everybody’s favourite – the ladybird, the adult and/or larval forms of which will eat aphids practically by the lorry load.
To encourage garden friendly insects to your patch of green, first and foremost you must stop using chemical sprays (but then I’m sure you probably guessed that already).
Secondly, if you can leave a sunny patch of your garden to grow wild, then please do. In fact the ladybird’s favourite plant for nesting in is the humble nettle so where you see nettles starting to grow, please leave them – you will be helping to increase the ladybird population. Bear in mind that it is sometimes the larvae of garden friendly insects that are the biggest help to us and this is certainly the case with the ladybird, although you may, up until now have assumed that this little chap is just another pest. He isn’t. He’s a veritable aphid hoover!
Third, you can give garden friendly bugs a home in which to live. There are attractive commercially made bug condominiums available to buy but making your own is also incredibly simple. I made mine (pictured at the end of this post) by cutting pieces of hollow bamboo to a uniform length using secateurs – I’d say, cut the lengths to about 10 inches long. (Bamboo is often used as plant supports and so can be easily purchased from garden nurseries). Cut both ends off a large/2 litre plastic drinks bottle and tightly stuff the cut lengths of bamboo into the resulting plastic tube. Tie string or twist wire around both ends of the newly made ‘bottle condominium’ so that you are able to hang it in a horizontal position. Place it somewhere warm, preferably near the main problem area in the garden. Pretty soon insects will find it and start to settle in your bug condo. By the way, many insects hibernate over the winter months so it may be helpful to put your bug shelter somewhere like a garden shed over the coldest months to help protect it from frost.
Finally, make a compost heap, the simple presence of which will help to encourage insect life into your garden … not to mention providing you with fabulous compost.
If your garden is under serious attack right now, (or you are of a very impatient temperament!) friendly bug ‘attractants’ can be bought on-line.