Attracting Native Pollinators and Beneficial Insects

Native pollinators and beneficial insects are two keys to a successful organic vegetable garden. The pollinators will pollinate the flowers of fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squashes. Beneficial insects will help control pests that damage your plants and spread diseases.

Attracting these native insects to your vegetables is as easy as adding plant diversity to your garden and landscaping. A variety of native plants and shrubs, annual herbs or ornamentals in your garden will provide alternative food sources and habitat. Note that you want to allow plants to flower to attract the most pollinators and beneficial insects.

Native Plants

  • Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum virginianum)
  • Milkweed (Asclepias species)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago species)
  • Aster (Aster species)
  • Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
  • Partridge pea (Cassia fasciculata)
  • Lance-leaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
  • Hawthorn (native examples: Crataegus mollis,
    C. punctata and C. crus-galli)
  • Pussy willow (Salix discolor)

Herbs and Ornamental Plants

  • Bachelor’s button
  • Cilantro/Coriander
  • Dill
  • Coreopsis
  • Catnip
  • Fruiting shrubs

Protect Native Insects

  • Don’t use pesticides (specifically ones with active ingredients of Imidacloprid, Clothianidin or Acetamiprid), especially on flowers. (See comprehensive report done by the Xerces Society via this link.) These kill native pollinators, honey bees and beneficial insects in addition to pests. Instead use Bt, insect repellents (garlic and citrus oils), Kaolin clay barriers (Surround) and pheromone traps.
  • Don’t release praying mantises. Those sold as “natural pest control” are actually nonnative mantids that eat everything, including native, beneficial insects and even hummingbirds!

Here’s a printable PDF of this page.

If you’re looking to purchase native plants from a local source, check out our friends at Natural Communities.

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