The Beauty of Beneficial Bugs in Your Garden

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By Deb Quantock McCarey

Contributing reporter/Nature blogger

As an edible and native plant gardener, I'm always going nose-to-nose with pests, or beneficial insects, that attack, or protect, my DIY sustainable landscaping. 

For me, pesticides, even the organic ones, are not in my mix, as I would rather attract natural predators by raising particular plants that will encourage biodiversity and a healthy crop of beneficial garden insects.

I am also an advocate of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and sustainable agriculture practices, and in the past, I have addressed that. 

However, with every yard of knowledge a gardener takes in, there is always a yard more to learn, so this is ongoing for me...and you

The good guys, or in plain terms, the ones you want, are called beneficials, and they can be attracted to your backyard simply by putting in a water source -- a.k.a. pond -- and digging in a range of plants...and of course, by paying attention to the science of good sun and soil, but that is a subject I will leave up to the horticulturists for now.

Anyway, because I do love dragonflies, but have no pond...yet!...I don't see those wistful creatures in my landscape.  So, for sightings we take treks to local nature on weekends to catch a few on film, mostly Morton Arboretum and a range of Chicago's openlands restoration projects, especially Bobolink Butterfly and Bird Sanctuary.  It is located a short nature hike away from the Museum of Science and Industry.

Well, at least those 2 sites are where we saw two really cool looking dragonflies. 

On FB, a friend from West Cook Wild Ones speculated that the red one is either a Ruby Meadowhawk or White-faced Meadowhawk. 

This second one posed, too.  I guess it was too busy eating to notice us.  

But I am digressing, far from where I intended to go, which is here, in my backyard, where bees and butterflies have been plentiful this year, which was the plan. 

Surprisingly,  though, Red Admirals have been particularly abundant, which is probably thanks to a few neighbor's who are growing its host plant -- nettles, or false nettles, nearby.

Because of all those pollinating attracting plants I have strategically put in my back and front yard, lots of bees have been flying in...honey bees, bumble bees and a baby digger bee  --  or so says an entomologist FB friend when I reached out for an ID.

So now, I am marking my calendar for the next West Cook Wild Ones meeting on Sunday, August 17, from 2:30 PM to 4:30 PM, because at Dominican University Priory Campus, Room 259, Adrian Ayres Fisher, a sustainability coordinator for a community college, and a blogger at Ecological Gardening is giving a presentation on native bees. 

I am hoping that after hearing her, I can step into the world of bees a bit more.

Until then, we captured a few hummingbird hawk moths on video on a recent local nature walkabout.

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Posted: August 5th, 2014 9:04 AM

Hummingbird moths also overwinter, usually under leaf litter or in the soil's surface near the host plant. Loved the video of all those Sphinx moths--bee balm is such a great pollinator plant. Bumblebees are always all over mine.


Posted: August 5th, 2014 9:02 AM

Thank you for bring up this important yet neglected topic. We can support and increase the ecosystem services nature provides us by intentionally creating habitat for these creatures. Native bees need year round places for nesting and for overwintering. They do not migrate away. Same goes for other beneficials like Preying Mantises (egg case), Lacewings, Syrphid Flies, etc. The best thing to do is to allow your garden to stand through the fall/winter, and minimal spring clean up.

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