Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control

Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control

by Jessica Walliser


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Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden: A Natural Approach to Pest Control by Jessica Walliser

Winner of the American Horticultural Society Book Award

Insects are indeed valuable garden companions, especially the assassin bugs, damsel bugs, stink bugs, and other predatory carnivores that eat the insects that dine on your garden. Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden is a book about bugs and plants, and how to create a garden that benefits from both. In addition to information on companion planting and commercial options for purchasing bugs, there are 19 detailed bug profiles and 39 plant profiles. These profiles include a description, a photograph for identification, an explanation of what they can do to support pest control. Design plans show how to create a border specifically for the natural, sustainable inclusion of beneficial bugs in your garden. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604693881
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/31/2013
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 236,735
Product dimensions: 8.06(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.63(d)

About the Author

Jessica Walliser co-hosts The Organic Gardeners, an award-winning radio program in Pennsylvania. She is a former editor of Organic Gardening magazine contributes regularly to Fine Gardening, Urban Farm, and Hobby Farms, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and Savvy Gardening. She also serves on the Editorial Advisory Board of The American Horticultural Society and was the recipient of an American Horticultural Society’s Book Award. 

Read an Excerpt

Introduction: How a Horticulturist Came to Bugs
Don’t be fooled by the title of this book. Yes, it is about bugs—about understanding their value to the garden and to the world. It is about encouraging the beneficial ones in hopes of mitigating the pesty ones. It is about learning to recognize how beneficial insects work, what some of them look like, and how they influence the delicate balance of the garden. But this book is also about plants. You cannot have one without the other, after all. The intent of these pages is to partner the two, to make your garden a place where bugs are welcome and a home for plants that provide for all the insects living there. It is a guide to selecting, placing, and caring for plants that encourage beneficial insects to do damage control on your behalf.

The objective of my words is to teach you how to design and create a landscape that fosters a diversity of plants and, as a result, a diversity of insects. This diversity does not come as a result of letting your garden go wild, nor does it mean that the insects living there will destroy your plants. To the contrary, insectary gardens are beautiful places filled with healthy, productive plants. They should be a part of every landscape, no matter where you live. Here you will find designs for creating a “good bug” garden of your own—designs suited to suburban lots, city gardens, market farms, and rural backyards.

In this book you will also find interviews with entomologists from across the United States. You’ll learn about fascinating research on everything from invasive exotic pests and lost ladybugs to beetle banks and farmscaping. In interviewing these entomologists, I was humbled again and again by the complexities of the workings of the insect world. I continue to have much to learn about the topic and suspect that will be the case for the rest of my life, no matter how much research I do. The scope of the insect world is both infinite and breathtaking. And so, with that in mind, I would like to make a few confessions.
Confession 1: I used to spray a lot of pesticides.
And I did it without any personal protection or a single thought about the possibility of any negative effects on me or the environment. At age twenty-two, working as a landscaper, I was standing one day on a 6-foot ladder spraying a client’s ornamental plum tree for Japanese beetles. The wind was blowing in my face, and I could taste and smell the chemicals hitting my skin. It didn’t bother me one bit. As we were driving back to the company’s crew shed that afternoon, my coworker implored me to tell our boss to get me a respirator and some chemical-resistant gloves. In a surprisingly honest and emotional discussion, he told me that his wife, a fellow horticulturist, was having some health problems and her doctor had attributed them to her repeated chemical exposure. He said he didn’t want it to happen to me. It got me thinking, and I had my requested respirator and gloves a week later.
Confession 2: I am a former bug hater.
Eventually I went on to start my own business as a professional gardener. It was my job to make sure forty different gardens looked their best, each and every day. Since my crew and I visited each garden only once per week, anytime I saw a bug, I saw the potential for a less-than-perfect garden and a disappointed client. Insects were nefarious. I carried an arsenal in the car and brought out the pump sprayer whenever I deemed it necessary. Five years after starting my business, I began to turn more to organic products at the prodding of one particular client. Then I hired someone who really set me straight. She taught me much about the dangers of chemical pesticides while we worked side by side in other people’s vegetable patches and perennial beds. I started learning and experimenting and gathering more and more information about what it really means to be an organic gardener.
Confession 3: I was late in making the connection between good bugs and organic practices.
I thought being organic just meant using different pesticides—ones based on natural ingredients. I certainly didn’t think it meant actually encouraging the presence of insects in the garden. Eventually, of course, I learned the importance of beneficial insects, and a few years later I came to the realization that it isn’t just the beneficial insects that are desirable but also the pests, for without the latter the beneficial species cannot survive. I developed a true appreciation of the insect world when I wrote my third book, Good Bug Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What They Do, and How to Manage Them Organically, in 2008. The book is designed as a field guide to identifying common garden pests and beneficials. What is missing from that book, however, is exactly what you’ll find in this one: all the tools and information you need to create a garden to protect and balance them both.
Confession 4: I am not an entomologist.
 didn’t really come to appreciate insects (let alone want to make them my profession) until my career as a horticulturist was well under way. But I will say, now that I have dedicated so many hours to learning about insects, I think I may have missed my calling. I had the great fortune of interviewing many entomologists as I wrote this book, and I am completely and unabashedly fascinated by them (both the insects and the entomologists!). Reading armloads of research papers concerning beneficial insects has served as a healthy reminder that I’m no expert. Not like these folks, at any rate. They are conducting some amazing explorations into the insect world, and what they are discovering is knock-your-socks-off stuff. In writing this book, I relied on them heavily for their expertise and research. So no, I’m not an entomologist but rather an incredibly interested horticulturist who happens to be very keen on the insect world.
Confession 5: I don’t like plants as much as I used to.
I’m probably going to be shunned for saying this, but to me plants have become static. The insect world, though, is in a constant state of motion. Yes, sometimes insects seem to be villainous scoundrels, but mostly they are just living, breathing beings with a job to do. Before learning about the importance of insects in the garden, my goal was to protect my plants at all costs by wiping out any and all insects that might bring harm; my goal now is to protect my insects, both good and bad, because I have learned what an amazing and indispensable responsibility these tiny creatures have. Today I can say, without a doubt, that I like my insects more than my plants.
Confession 6: I now garden for someone else instead of just for me.
I used to go to the nursery and buy a plant because I liked the flower color or I thought it would look good next to my patio or I needed color in September or I liked the plant’s texture or form or whatever. Every plant I bought, I bought for me and me alone. But now I know how a beautiful garden lives in harmony with billions of insects. I choose plants for them; I garden for them as much as I do for myself. Because I know that without insects, the world wouldn’t be. Without us, however...well, who would notice?

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