Attracting Natural Insect Predators to Control Garden Pests

 One of the reasons that we like to grow our own vegetables, apart from the great flavours of fresh home-grown produce, is that we can control what pesticides go onto them.  Most of us do not like the thought of eating vegetables from the supermarket which have been sprayed with chemicals. 

Luckily nature has developed its own very effective system for controlling pests.  To understand it, let’s have a look at animals.

 What Are Insect Predators?

In the world of animals, there are carnivores (predators) and herbivores.  The carnivores are meat eating, and feed on the herbivores.  The same happens in the insect world, and we can use this strategy to naturally control pests in our vegetable gardens.  Insect predators eat other insects.


Lady Bug


Lacewing Bug


Damsel Bug


Examples of beneficial insect predators that feed on crop pests include ladybugs, lacewing bugs, spiders, wasps, certain mites, damsel bugs and many others.  There are ways of attracting such insect predators to our gardens. One of these is to create an insectary by using a diverse range of predator attracting plants.

 The garden insectary is a type of “companion planting”.  By planting a wide range of plants you can provide alternative food sources (such as nectar and pollen, required by many predators as part of their diet) as well as habitat and shelter.  For example, you can control aphids by attracting an aphid-specific predator such as Aphidius by planting lupins or sunflowers. Your insectary only needs to be big enough to hold six to seven varieties of plants that attract insects. Once these plants have matured, your beneficial insects will efficiently take over the insect pest control in your vegetable and fruit garden for you.

Tips for Creating An Insectary

  1. Members of the carrot family (wild carrot, dill, coriander, fennel and angelica) are all excellent insectary plants.  They all produce tiny flowers which are required by parasitoid wasps.  Large nectar-filled flowers can drown these tiny parasitoid wasps.
  2. Grow plants of various heights in your insectary: lace wings lay their eggs in protected, shady areas.  Ground beetles like the cover from low growing plants such as mint, thyme or rosemary
  3. Flowers such as daisies and mint-like plants such as peppermint, spearmint etc will attract robber flies, hover flies and predatory wasps.
  4. Plant insectary annuals between your vegetable beds. This will lure beneficial insects as well as adding a touch of decoration to your garden.
  5. Let some of your vegetables grow to flower (carrots, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, bok choy etc).

Ideal Insectary Plants

Good insectary plants not already mentioned include the following :


Lemon Balm

  • Alyssum
  • Amaranthus
  • Convolvulus
  • Cosmos
  • Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace)
  • Digitalis
  • Limonium (Statice)
  • Lemon balm
  • Parsley
  • Peonies
  • Verbascum thaspus

  • A garden insectary should be a permanent component of all gardens.

    The longer your insectary is in place, the more effective it will be as insects get to know a place that provides food, shelter and above all, a source of nearby food. Results are cumulative.

    As your plantings mature and resident populations of beneficial insects are established, the need for toxic chemical pesticides  will diminish. Your garden will become a more natural and balanced environment for the production of healthy vegetables and flowers.

Lucia (13 Posts)

Lucia Grimmer holds a Masters Degree in Plant Pathology and works as a technical nutrition specialist in the fertilizer industry. She has studied at many universities including those in the USA and has worked in a research capacity in both government and commercial organizations. She is author of several scientific papers and technical disease and nutrition manuals. Lucia has won several awards from farming magazines for her technical articles. Originally from Zimbabwe, Lucia and her husband owned a 1500 ha farm where they grew commercial and horticultural crops including tomatoes before they migrated to Australia. As a specialist in plant disease and nutrition, every day Lucia provides professional advice to commercial growers of tomatoes.

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7 Responses to “Attracting Natural Insect Predators to Control Garden Pests”

  1. David K. says:

    Thank you for this update.

  2. RichardTatro says:

    It has been a devasted season for pesty insects this last summe. Knowing which Good Insects to have in your garden and how to rid oneself of the pesty insects is a wealth of information long overdue for the Novice and somewhat yearly gardener. I was unfrtunate as the Cucunber beetles, and Squash bugs prevented me from having any type of a decent Harvest. I was using several different non-toxic type pesticides such as Neem Oil, Dish Detergent, and even baking soda dluted in water in attempting to control the pest. Bugs won, Human Lost! That was the score for the summer season. Now we have a fall season here in West Central Florida, and I have already, planted Green Beans, Yellow Wax beans, winter squash, Beefsteak Tomato, Cucumbers, Rosemary, and Broccoli all from seed, everything on the surface is doing well, Hopefully they will survive the pesty insects, even though we are still having real summer heat.

  3. Adrian Castellari says:

    Very good. I do it now, but will do it even more after reading the article.

  4. Adrian Castellari says:

    Am following the advice from your ‘tomato book’, so will see how we go. Have to change the soil in my main vege garden, as there are thousands of hair like roots thru it. No wonder I didn’t get a good crop of anything last season. The roots were taking all the nutrients out as fast as I put the fertiliser etc., back in. I think the roots were from the neighbouring shrubs and fruit trees. have dug a ‘moat’ like ditch around and chopped off all the roots coming in. So, if the fruit trees don’t do so good, I’ll know they were getting all the ‘good stuff’ from the vegie garden.

  5. Annette says:

    Sounds like you’re on the right track, although maybe your veggie garden is a little too close to the fruit trees and you might be fighting a losing battle. You might consider a raised bed and use the no dig method. That way your veggies won’t be competing with the lower fruit tree roots.

    Best wishes for success


  6. Annette says:

    Excellent Adrian. It’s a wonderful natural system


  7. Bob S says:

    I just wanted to say that I ‘fell’ onto your website by seeking other gardening information relating to tomato.

    It has been absolutely helpful in various ways.

    Keep up the great work , I look forward to reading your gardening advice/ideas/tips.


    Bob Rosedale Victoria Australia

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