12 Plants That Attract Ruthless Good Bugs
Most bugs pose a great threat to our gardens. That’s why I've previously wrote an article about proven insect repelling plants that are known to repel harmful bugs from our gardens and homes.
You can find the article here:
However, in today’s article, I’ve acknowledged the fact that not all pests are a threat to your garden plants, and many of them are actually helpful in fighting off other plant predators.
In order to attract those helpful bugs, you need to add certain plants from the list below to your garden or farm to encourage biodiversity and a healthy population of beneficial garden insects that will help you keep bad bugs in check.
Let’s check them out:
1. Fern-leaf yarrow (Achillea ﬁlipendulina)
Achillea filipendulina, commonly known as fern-leaf yarrow or cloth of gold, is an upright, clump-forming yarrow that is native to the Caucasus, Iran and Afghanistan.
The fern-leaf yarrow is best grown in lean, dry to medium, well-drained sandy loams in full sun. It does well in average garden soils and tolerates poor soils as long as drainage is good.
The plants tolerate hot and humid summers with some drought. It’s also important to protect the plants from strong winds.
They are often used in borders, cottage gardens and in containers. Fern-leaf-yarrow is very good in attracting Lady Birds that prey on aphids.
Lady Bird Bugs:
Easily recognized when they are adults by most gardeners.
However, the young larvae, black with orange markings, eat more pests than the adults, and they can’t ﬂy.
Lady Birds lay yellowish eggs in clusters usually on the undersides of the leaves.
2. Eggplant - (Solanum melongena)
The brinjal, which is commonly known as the eggplant or aubergine in the western world, is closely related to tomatoes and potatoes as it lies in the same Solanum family.
It is a staple part of many cuisines all over the world, and used in many popular dishes, with one of the more famous ones (thanks to Disney) being ratatouille.
They are also extremely healthy and can be prepared in many ways.
However, aside from this impeccable palatable profile, Eggplants are also known to attract predatory mites that prey on red spider mites.
Predatory mites – Phytoseiulus persimilis:
They are bright red, very active, spherical and stands on their legs. Their eggs are oblong, first pink and transparent, later on darker, twice as big as spider mite eggs.
These predatory mites feed specifically on spider mites and consumes all stages of the spider mites.
Adult predators and nymphs search actively for adults, nymphs and eggs of the spider mite and suck them dry.
This rare trait makes the eggplant one of the most beneficial plants for vegetable gardening especially when practising companion gardening.
3. Lavender globe lily (Allium tanguticum)
Lavender globe lily is large, dense clusters of lavender/purple flowers, which look amazingly like lollipops, open above dark green narrow leaves and it is a good choice for attracting butterflies to your garden.
Its relatively fine texture sets it apart from other garden plants with less refined foliage and it makes an excellent cut flower.
Lavender globe lily has been known to also attract quite a big deal of hoverflies, thus, making it one of the best flowers to plant in vegetable garden in a companion setting.
Also known as syrphid flies, flower flies & drone flies. The larvae of hover flies are important predators of pests, such as aphids, scales, thrips and caterpillars.
They are rivalled only by ladybird beetles and lacewings:
When hover fly larvae populations are high, they may control 70 to 100% of an aphid population.
Aphids alone cause tens of millions of dollars of damage annually to crops worldwide, so the aphid-feeding hover flies are being recognized as potential agents for use in biological control.
Adult hover flies are important pollinators and can be found feeding at flower blossoms or around aphid colonies, where they lay their eggs.
4. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
Coriandrum sativum is a warm weather annual that is commonly grown in herb gardens for its lacy, strong-scented foliage (cilantro) and its aromatic seeds (coriander).
It is native to southern Europe and the western Mediterranean.
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. Coriander is used in cuisines throughout the world.
The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, fresh coriander, dhania, Chinese parsley, or (in the US and commercially in Canada) cilantro.
Coriandrum sativa attracts Trichogramma wasps.
Trichogramma wasps (Trichogramma pretiosum)
It’s an efficient killer of some 200 undesirable insects. It uses smell to determine the suitability of a host for deposit of its egg.
Wasps emerging from a destroyed egg note its smell and use it to find another suitable host.
Harmful insects it predates include armyworm, bagworm, European corn borer, peach borer, squash borer, cankerworm, alfalfa caterpillar, cutworm, corn earworm, wax moth, tomato hornworm, cabbage looper and codling moth.
The parasitic wasp inserts its eggs inside the eggs of these pests, killing them before they enter the plant-consuming larval stage.
5. Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
Tansy is a native, perennial member of the daisy family. In a daisy what appears to be a flower is in fact a tight head of tiny yellow flowers known as the floral disc surrounded by white petal like structures called ray florets.
In tansies the ray florets are absent giving the flower heads a button like appearance.
These flower heads are arranged in flat-topped clusters where the 50-150cm tall stem branches towards its top.
The stem its self is erect, stout and often tinged red and arranged alternately up the stem are finely divided almost fern like leaves.
Both leaves and flowers are aromatic.
It’s this aromatic smell that is thought to attract beneficial Tachinid flies.
Parasites of caterpillars (corn earworm, imported cabbage worm, cabbage loopers, cutworms, army worms), stink bugs, squash bug nymphs, beetle and ﬂy larvae, some true bugs, and beetles.
White eggs are deposited on foliage or on the body of the host. Larvae are internal parasites, feeding within the body of the host, sucking its body ﬂuids to the point that the pest dies.
6. “Lemon gem” Marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia)
Tagetes tenuifolia, the signet marigold or golden marigold, is a species of the wild marigold in the daisy family (Asteraceae).
It is widespread across most of Mexico as well as Central America, Colombia, and Peru.
Marigolds are regarded as one of the easiest plants to grow. They are very hardy, and may survive minor frosts.
The plant is well suited to a mostly sunny position, and fairly well draining soil. Overly fertile soil may cause the plants to become bushy and produce less flowers.
Marigolds come in a variety of colours, but mostly yellows and orange.
It's often used as a companion plant for its insect-repelling properties. Some species of Tagetes possess a characteristic scent, which repels insects such as mosquitoes, small animals and smaller, burrowing insects.
Tagetes tenuifolia is one of these and is often planted near small creeks or puddle prone areas to repel bugs, especially mosquitoes.
That’s not all:
These marigolds also attract minute pirate bugs that prey on thrips.
Minute pirate bugs:
Minute pirate bugs are tiny insects that are usually less than one-fifth inch long. They are black or dark purple with white markings at the tips of their wings so that they appear to have white bands when the wings are closed.
Nymphs are generally between a yellow-orange color and brown and are shaped like a teardrop. Although incredibly small, pirate bugs move fast and are very predatory.
Pirate bugs in the garden feed on a number of small insects, including aphids, spider mites, and thrips. They are also used to kill thrips in greenhouses.
Each adult pirate bug can consume as many as 20 thrips larvae each day.
A beneficial pirate bug feeds by inserting its mouthparts into its prey and sucking out the body fluids. Both the nymphs and the adults feed in this way.
7. Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Spearmint, also known as garden mint, is a species of mint native to much of Europe and Asia.
Spearmint grows well in nearly all temperate climates. Gardeners often grow it in pots or planters due to its invasive, spreading rhizomes.
The plant prefers partial shade, but can flourish in full sun to mostly shade. Spearmint is best suited to loamy soils with abundant organic material.
Spearmint is used for its aromatic oil. Spearmint essential oil is an effective insecticide against adult moths as well as a damsel bug attractant.
Damsel bugs are predators that live on low-growing plants where they capture and eat aphids, caterpillars, and other insects. Damsel bugs are especially common in agricultural habitats, such as soybean, corn, and alfalfa, where they feed on many pest species.
However, damsel bugs also feed on other predators, like assassin bugs, minute pirate bugs, and big-eyed bugs.
8. Peter Pan Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea)
This herb is native to Europe and has spread to Asia, the Azores, and both North and South America.
European goldenrod is a perennial with single woody stems that grow to heights of 3 to 7 feet. It is often found along roadsides and in open fields.
Its yellow flowers, which generally appear in August and September, are only about ¼-inch wide, but they come in large clusters. Its leaves alternate between jagged and smooth edges.
Apart from their proven medicinal benefits, goldenrod is also known to attract big eyed bugs that feed on mites and other insects.
Big eyed bugs:
Big-eyed bugs are considered an important predator in many agricultural systems and feed on mites, insect eggs, and small insects such as pink bollworm, cabbage loopers, and whiteflies.
Adult big-eyed bugs are small (about 3 mm (0.12 in)) black, gray, or tan with proportionately large eyes. Eggs are deposited singly or in clusters on leaves near potential prey.
Big-eyed bugs, like other true bugs, have piercing-sucking mouthparts and feed by stabbing their prey and sucking or lapping the juices.
Although their effectiveness as predators is not well understood, studies have shown that nymphs can eat as many as 1600 spider mites before reaching adulthood, while adults have been reported consuming as many as 80 mites per day.
9. Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Anethum graveolens, commonly called dill, is an annual that is frequently grown in herb, vegetable and flower gardens not only for harvest of its aromatic leaves and seeds, but also for ornamental display of its attractive foliage and flowers.
Although native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean, dill has now been widely planted around the globe, with naturalization having occurred in parts of Europe and North America.
Dill does a very good job in attracting Ichneumonid wasps.
It is a predatory insect, notable for its extremely long ovipositor. It uses this to deposit an egg into a tunnel in dead wood bored by a similarly large species of horntail.
Although the wasps are harmless to humans; they are parasitoids on the larvae of the pigeon horntail (Tremex columba, Symphyta), which bore tunnels in decaying wood.
Female Megarhyssa macrurus are able to detect these larvae through the bark, and lay their eggs on them; within a couple of weeks, the Megarhyssa larvae will have consumed their host and pupate.
10. White Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
The flowers are about 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in diameter, sweet-smelling, with an aroma similar to that of honey, with four white rounded petals or pink, rose-red, violet and lilac and four sepals.
The six stamens have yellow anthers. The flowers are produced throughout the growing season, and attract braconid wasps.
The female wasp uses her ovipositor to lay eggs just under the skin of an unlucky hornworm.
As the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on the hornworms viscera literally eating a hornworm alive. Larvae chew their way out through the host’s skin when they mature.
Once outside, the future wasps pupate, spinning tiny oval cocoons that look like insect eggs along the external back and sides of the worm.
These fellows and ladies are not just innocently hitching a ride. When the adult wasps emerge from the cocoons, the already weakened hornworm will soon die, thus preventing any further defoliation on tomato plants.
11. Crimsom thyme (Thymus serpyllum coccineus)
These plants, which are easy to grow, form dense evergreen mats, blanketed in early summer with countless small flowers.
They require full sun and well-drained soil, and that is about all. Thyme is a perfect ground cover for hot, dry places and makes a delightful edging for an informal path.
Because it tolerates foot traffic, it's also excellent for planting between stones in a dry-laid terrace or walk.
There’s evidence that Crimsom thyme attracts mini-wasps that parasites on a wide variety of bad bugs.
Parasites of a variety of insects. They do not sting!
The stingers have been adapted to allow the females to lay their eggs in the bodies of insect pests. The eggs then hatch, and the young feed on the pests from the inside, killing them.
After they have killed the pests, they leave hollow “mummies.”
12. Dandelion (Taraxacum ofﬁcinale)
Taraxacum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae which consists of species commonly known as dandelion.
The flower heads are yellow to orange coloured, and are open in the daytime, but closed at night. Stems and leaves exude a white, milky latex when broken.
Many similar plants in the Asteraceae family with yellow flowers are sometimes known as false dandelions.
Lacewings (Chrysopa spp.):
It is the larvae (which look like little alligators) that destroy most of the pests. They are sometimes called aphid lions for their habit of dining on aphids.
They also feed on mites, other small insects and insect eggs.
You’ve just read the post on 12 plants that attract good bugs that are truly ruthless other economically damaging bugs.
However, it’s worth noting that throwing these here and there in your garden does not guarantee availability of good bugs.
There are other important factors. For instance, ensure that you don’t use any pesticide in your garden and provide other favouring conditions.
If you do this, this bugs will work for you in the garden like nothing you’ve ever imagined. Have I left any more plants out? Let me know in the comments.