Beneficial Bugs Part 1: Butterflies & Bees
Now that spring is in full bloom, you've probably noticed that all the insects have come out. But did you know that most of your garden/yard bugs are beneficial? Many of them take care of the "bad" bugs we don't want. Most of us know that pollinators are essential, and we need to leave them be, but we tend to kill some of those guys too! So let's explore the world of insects, which ones we need and which ones we don't, and how to attract them!
Let's start with the obvious well-known beneficial bugs in the garden:
Benefits: From a very young age, we are taught that butterflies are to be cherished and left alone to fly from flower to flower, helping pollinate flowers. Beauty and function have gardeners aiming to bring as many butterflies into their gardens as possible.
Negatives: But be aware that with butterflies come their oh-so-cute caterpillar babies that will also eat your plants. I'll take little munchies on my plants if it means more butterflies.
How to Attract them:
Here are three plants that I have found to attract butterflies to my 7B zone garden: Butterfly bushes, Zinas, and Bee Balm
-In my research of butterfly boxes, I found that studies showed that the structures don't work. They add visual interest to your garden but don't be disappointed if all you see is spiders and wasp in your box.
*There are over 20,000 known bee species globally, and 4,000 of them are native to the United States. - https://www.usgs.gov Honey bees are not native to the United States but were brought over from Europe.
Bees can be split up into two categories: Social & Solitary. Look at the photo below from Animal Spot for some species in these categories. You might see a social bee alone while gathering pollen, and you might see a lot of solitary bees together in a spot filled with flowers. So, you will have to practice spotting your bee patterns and shapes!
-Once again, SAVE THE BEES has been the gardener's cry for decades, so most of us know that bees are essential for pollination in our food systems. You want them in your veggie garden, fruit orchards, and flower gardens.
-You can get honey if you have honey bees.
I do not see the following as issues, but some do.
-We spend a lot of time outside, all types of bees are flying everywhere, and we rarely get stung. But, if you spend any time outside, you'll probably eventually be stung by one of these cute fuzzy workers. We find that bees sting us when we accidentally step on them or touch them when grabbing something. It's not the bees or our fault.
-Some bee species can be destructive. Mason Bees tend to bor holes into wooden structures like decks, wooden planter boxes, and shed joists. You will spot a small pile of sawdust to find that one has made a hole in the board above.
-Have you witnessed a bee cutting a piece of leaf off of one of your flowers? That is a leafcutter bee. It used the leaves to make cocoons for its eggs/larvae. Sometimes you might confuse leafcutters' visit with a caterpillar munching on your plant's leaves. But they usually are not destructive enough to upset a plant or garden.
What are some things you can do to help attract these beneficial fliers to your garden & yard?
-Of course: Flowers, flowering trees, and flowering shrubs.
-A water source is one of the things that most people don't consider, but it's essential. It can be a small fountain or a birdbath.
I hope butterflies and bees bless your gardens! - Kara