(Editor's Note: this article was originally published on February 16, 2008. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to respond to your questions.)
Beneficial insects play a very important role in the environment. Although honeybees are known as pollinators and not usually grouped in this category, I feel we need to keep them in mind as we plan our garden. Their needs are similar and they will benefit by the reduction of pesticides and careful practices in the garden. Ladybugs, ground beetles, lacewings, parasitic wasps and hover flies are an important part of the team. They consume large amounts of pests, but some rely on nectar and pollen. The key to attracting beneficials to your garden is diversity. Plants should be of various heights. Try to have some of their favorites available most of the year for a steady supply of food and shelter.
The health of the plants is important to keep them less susceptible to a pest infestation. Keep them well watered and fed. Avoid over crowding; plants need ventilation to keep them healthy. Keep a close eye on your plants so that you can take care of pests before they become a problem. If you feel you must use a deterrent, there are many safe, non-toxic products you can use. Be sure to read the label carefully to be sure it is safe to use around children or pets. Sometimes a good blast of water is all that's needed to rid a plant of aphids.
A patch of the following plants will provide color in the garden as well as attract the beneficials so that they are ready to go after the pests if they are needed:
Sweet Alyssum and Cosmos Yarrow
So the next time you reach for a pesticide, check first to see if there are armies of our little friends at work on the bad guys. Remember, pesticides kill the bees, butterflies and ladybugs along with the pests, so be patient and give the good guys a chance to do their job.
Thanks to Melody for the use of her picture of the bee.