A food forest can be one of the best habitats for insects, whether you know it or not. You may grow ornamental plants, flowers, fruits, vegetables, or a little bit of everything. All kinds of bugs will be attracted to the plant life that you have to offer.
There are hundreds of thousands of different insect species in the world. Most of them are harmless to your plants, while others may be destructive. However, many insect species benefit your garden by performing essential services that contribute to a healthy, balanced ecosystem.
How Can Insects Be Beneficial?
There are three main categories of insects that benefit food forests:
- PollinatorsSpread pollen which helps fertilize flowers and fruits in your garden.
- PredatorsEat other insects that feed on your plants.
- ParasitesAttack insects that are destructive to plants, controlling their population.
These beneficial insects work together to provide essential eco-management services in your garden or food forest. The garden would be overrun with pests that may devour your precious edibles or ornamentals without them.
Beneficial insects are the most environmentally friendly pest management system. Since their presence means that you don’t need to rely on chemical pesticides, you can grow organically and eat safe, high-quality produce. Not only do do pesticides exterminate the good insects and the bad, but they can also cause toxic runoff that kills fish and other animals further down the food chain.
8 Beneficial Insects
Ladybugs have a voracious appetite and can eat more than 5,000 aphids during their lifetime.
Benefit: Eats pests such as aphids, whiteflies, mites, fleas, and Colorado potato beetles
Plants to attract ladybugs: Dill, Dandelion, Fern-leaf Yellow, Basket of Gold, Common Yarrow, Carpet Bugleweed, Penstemon, Fennel
Praying mantis are highly skilled hunters that prey on insects of all types, beneficial or not. However, they’re the most well-equipped to control populations of larger insects like crickets, caterpillars, and beetles.
Benefit: Eats a wide variety of insects, including beetles, crickets, caterpillars, moths, aphids, gnats, and cockroaches.
Plants to attract praying mantis: Tall grass and shrubs, marigold, dill
During the larvae stage, hoverflies eat pest insects. Then, during their adult stage, they eat pollen and become pollinators.
Benefit: Larvae eat aphids, scale insects, and caterpillars. Adults spread pollen.
Plants to attract hoverflies: Fern-leaf Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Dill, Basket of Gold
Lacewings have a considerable appetite for pest insects in the larvae stage but primarily feed on pollen and nectar later in life.
Benefit: Eats aphids, whiteflies, leafhoppers, mealybugs, caterpillars of pest moths
Plants to attract lacewings: Yarrow, Dill, Coriander, Cosmos, Fennel, and Dandelion
These types of wasps lay their eggs in host insects. Once the larvae hatch, they consume the host.
Benefit: Larvae feed on tobacco hornworms, tomato hornworms, caterpillars, aphids, and other pests.
Plants to attract parasitic wasps: Fern-leaf Yarrow, Common Yarrow, Dill, Lemon Balm, Parsley
Butterflies & Moths
While butterflies and moths may eat plants in their caterpillar stage, they become essential pollinators in their adult stage.
Benefit: Pollinate plants and provide an essential food source for birds and other animals
Plants to attract butterflies and moths: Buddleia, Marjoram, Lavender, Jasmine, Evening Primrose, Honeysuckle
Usually only active at night, ground beetles hunt pests that live in the soil, such as slugs, snails, maggots, and caterpillars.
Benefit: Eats slugs, caterpillars, ants, Colorado potato beetles, cutworms
Plants to attract ground beetles: Clover, Amaranthus, Evening Primrose
Spiders are one of nature’s most versatile, efficient insect predators, feasting on various pests that threaten your garden.
Benefit: Trap and eat aphids, roaches, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, wasps, fruit flies
Plants to attract spiders: Shrubs, tall grasses
While many people think that insects negatively impact their food forests and gardens, the contrary is often true. There are insects that you don’t want around your plants, however, these insects listed plus many others do a terrific job of controlling the spread and destruction of them. To read more articles like this, check out our blog!
Are you interested in growing your own food forest? Check out our food forest landscapes and let us help you!