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Beneficial Insects

Bees are not the only pollinators in the garden, there are many other insects that a gardener should encourage. A garden can be a haven and a refuge for insect life, a little oasis in suburbs that must feel like toxic deserts to many creatures.

Beneficial insects perform many roles in the garden. Pollination by spreading pollen from one plant to another is done by bees, butterflies, moths, some flies, and wasps. Predatory species are often the larvae stage of more familiar bugs such as ladybirds. However other larvae that eat aphids include lacewings and hoverflies. Other predators are praying mantis, ants, spiders, parasitic wasps, some beetles, tachinid flies, dragonfly nymphs and there are several species of scale parasites. Many of these lay eggs on other pest species and their young then eat the living pest creature. Other smaller insects in the soil perform tasks such as breaking down rock into soil, digesting plant material, recycling and aerating soil. These include various worms, ants, beetles and millions of micro organisms.

There is a complex cycle of predator and prey in any ecosystem. While a garden might be a simpler system than nature, it is important that the overall picture is understood. For instance, an aphid infestation will attract predator insects in time, but if it is sprayed, the spray may kill predators as well. The aphids will breed up again, but the next time there will be fewer predators available.

Insects require a number of factors to make your garden a home. Food, shelter, water and a chemical free environment.

Food: for a variety of insects plant a range of flower size, colour and flowering time. For those that have herbs or vegetable gardens, the umbelliferous heads of flowering fennel, carrots and parsley attract insects.

Native groundcovers such as running postman, hibbertia and goodenia species attract moths, butterflies and bees. Grasses and rushes such as wallaby grass and lomandra and dianella provide shelter for butterflies and moths. Shrubs such as correas, grevillea, epacris, banksia, bursaria, acacia, and kunzia provide nectar. Climbers such as hardenburgia, clematis and pandorea have small flowers for the tinier insects. Trees such as eucalypt, acacia, and callistemon and melaleucas provide masses of flowers for nectar.

Shelter: provide undisturbed areas of flat rocks with overhangs, small logs and bark, natural mulch, and areas of undisturbed garden. Some people might like to build an insect hotel, with hollow stems of plants, wood with holes drilled in them, pine cones, and clay-sand mix in open ended containers.

Water: a tray with pebbles and water provides a safe perch for insects, as does a mud filled bowl.

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