We often regard insects as pests and nuisances, but many of these insects actually help in the production of the food that we eat. Insects such as praying mantises, spiders, wasps, ladybugs, and dragonflies are all beneficial in the growth of urban farms as natural predators. The production of our farms wouldn’t be as abundant without their presence.
The praying mantis is a known predator and a ‘generalist,’ meaning that it eats a variety of things from other insects to creatures three times its size. They are considered a companion to gardeners and farmers because their diet primarily consists of pests that damage crops. These include beetles, aphids, crickets, moths, grasshoppers, and mosquitoes (1).
Like praying mantises, spiders are predators that are commonly found in gardens. They provide a healthy balance in the landscape by removing insect pests throughout the growing season. They are also good for the plants themselves, as they reduce the spread of fungal and bacterial diseases that can be very harmful toward plant growth and health (2).
As mentioned in our blog post about native pollinators, wasps are also pollinators much like bees. They’re particularly beneficial for plants that self-pollinate, as they help with the ‘tripping’ process where the reproductive parts of a flower make contact with the help of vibrations from insects landing on them. They’re also carnivores and amazing predators, feeding on caterpillars, aphids, flies, and other insects – many of those that are harmful to gardens (3) !
Not only are ladybugs cute, but they’re also an important predator to soft-bodied pests that can be found in gardens. They’re capable of eating up to 50 aphids in a single day, and up to 100x that in their lifetime (4). In gardens, they may look like unknown insects or pests before they reach maturity, so it’s important that farmers and gardeners know what “pest” they’re looking at before harming it.
Dragonflies have sharp eyes and can notice the movement of the tiniest pests in gardens. Of mosquitoes, aphids, gnats, grasshoppers, and flies, no insect is safe. Dragonflies are partial to wetlands and areas with aquatic plants, so they’re more likely to show up in gardens with water nearby (5).
What do MicroHabitat farms offer to native insects?
At MicroHabitat, we do what we can to make sure that native insects are not disturbed in our gardens. Through companion planting, there is plenty of shade and shelter for our friendly predators to reside. This also provides them space to feed and reproduce! We ensure not to intentionally place or import these insects to get rid of our pests, as we want to promote the attraction of native species and local biodiversity.
How to attract native insects?
Having an organic-grown garden is a great way to attract native insects and ensure their safety. The use of pesticides can help with pest issues, but they are also detrimental to the survival of these predators. It’s better to leave the pests to native predators, and look into pesticide alternatives if pest issues persist. Planting flowers with long blooming periods such as marigolds as well as native flowers can also be a great way of attracting native insects.
We hope this encourages you to think differently about the insects you might find in your garden, as they oftentimes want to help us!
- Lohmiller, B. & Lohmiller, C. (2021). The Praying Mantis: Predator of the Garden. Almanac. https://www.almanac.com/praying-mantis-predator-garden
- Orthos. (n.d.). The Benefits of Spiders in the Garden. https://www.ortho.com/en-us/library/garden/benefits-spiders-garden
- Rhoades, J. (2020). Wonderful Wasps. UCANR. https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=40718
- Mother Nature. (2019). The Benefits of Nematodes and Ladybugs. https://mother-nature.ca/benefits-of-nematodes-and-ladybugs/
- Brown, S. (n.d.). Dragonfly Benefits to Your Garden and How to Attract Them. Dre Campbell Farm. https://drecampbell.com/dragonfly-benefits-garden-how-attract-them/