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While browsing through my library’s new book feature section, I came across Jessica Walliser’s new book: attracting beneficial bugs to your garden. Bugs are either a bane to be avoided or gingerly picked off any plant when causing damage, but are typically removed with pesticides. In my garden explorations, we know diversity attracts beneficials and helps keep the nuisance pests more at bay. Did you know most bugs are beneficial, and it’s only a few who cause the most problems? Some sources suggest that 95% of bugs are benign or beneficial.

Jessica reminds me/us that the garden is a complex ecosystem where all parts create the whole. She suggests that if we stop our intense focus on the bad bugs and instead create gardens that support the vast, diverse species of beneficials, we can return to a more natural balance. We can decrease, she actually says stop, our use of harmful chemicals that adversely impacts soil, water, and air quality. I agree. Having a meadow in a typical suburban backyard brought in tremendous diversity. I saw healthy plant species and witnessed Japanese beetles feeding on spearmint and leaving vegetables for the most part alone. If some were damaged, it was only a few and did not spoil the beauty or abundance of most plants. Constant pesticide use creates bug resistance, and we perpetuate a cycle of stronger and more lethal pesticides that more seriously harms all of us: nature, elements, and species.

Let’s get back to bugs. The author has a section on the best plants for beneficials, and a guide to designing a garden for the bugs. This is a spin, a new focus on garden design, one I think is healthy and about time. Yet like many of you, I have not known who are the good guys and am repelled by some of them from a place of ignorance.

For example, there is a group of bugs known as ” big-eyed bugs.” They consume aphids, cabbage loopers, cabbage worms, caterpillars, cinch bugs, flea beetles, leafhoppers, lygus bug nymphs, corn earworms, beetles, spider mites, thrips, whiteflies, and the eggs of many pests” What plants support them? ” Cover crops like alfalfa and clovers. . .angelica, boltonia, buckwheat, caraway, cosmos, eriogonum, lace flower, sunflowers, and sweet alyssum. ( p. 202)

(Photo to the right is a Geocoris punctipes, a big-eyed bug. Prey is a species of whitefly (Aleyrodida)

Book: attracting beneficial bugs to your garden

Author: Jessica Walliser also co-hosts: The Organic Gardeners on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh, PA

What I like: Photographs. Jessica has clear photos of bugs and plant species. She offers clearly laid out garden plans for attracting or creating good bug-friendly gardens. Next, she has a companion planting guide. But the best section contains a guide and photos of who they are. Who are the beneficial bugs, and what plants support them?

I think this book is an invaluable guide for the gardener who is concerned about our environment and how to protect it. Around here, and it seems from coast to coast, we have had more snow. 8″ fell here, but I hear the sun and warmer weather are coming by the end of the week.  While snow covers the ground and we are more homebound, I suggest this book for the end of winter’s read while sipping a good cup of herb tea harvested from your garden, of course.

Remember, my book, At the Garden’s Gate, talks about diversity in meadowlands and how easy it is to set up a land space, no matter the size, with wildflowers. Check it out.

Enjoy. Judith

Judith Dreyer, MS, BSN, Writer, Speaker, Holistic Health Consultant and Workshop Presenter, Master Gardener. 


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