Insects are an integral part of our ecosystem. They propagate plant growth through pollen transfer, improve soil fertilization, and prey on garden-destroying pests (yes, some of which are, granted, also insects). Unfortunately, the number of insect species, especially land-based bugs, has been declining at a terrifying pace in recent years.
In addition to sprawling urban development and neatness-obsessed landscaping, bugs face widespread use of pesticides on both farms and home gardens. We don't know how bad things could get if the rates of extinction continue, but we know that all over the planet, larger species depend on bugs for food, so the effects could be widespread and catastrophic.
Albert Einstein once famously noted that the decline of the world's bees could be the beginning of the end for humanity. Now it's not just bees that are falling. Bugs all around the world are dying off. Help stop this unfolding disaster by planting vegetation that supports insects, especially those that are beneficial to flowers and farms.
Grow Plants To Attract the Right Insects
Most insects are good guests—when you invite them to your garden, they don't just sit around and eat your food. Bugs are busy buddies who work 24 hours a day. For instance, some ants will tend the soil and eat worms that might be destructive to your plants. Bees will facilitate pollen grain transfer in their hunt for nectar, helping your flowering plants to thrive. Many larger insects feed on the eggs of common microscopic pests, protecting your garden and harvest.
However, some insects can also be destructive. The plants on this list attract beneficial insects, including lacewings, praying mantis, hoverflies, pirate bugs, hornets, tachinid flies and some wasps. These insects are vital since they prey on pests. Common adult pests include snails, maggots, caterpillars, spider mites, and moths.
1. Golden Marguerite (Anthemis Tinctoria)
This is a common flowering plant that tolerates most weather and soil types, grows quickly, and can be distributed in just two years. One study done by the Botanical Gardens of Colorado suggests this plant is attractive to most beneficial insects. Among 170 plants tested in the study, the Golden Marguerite was found to attract the most beneficial insects.
The plant attracts ladybugs, lacewings, tachinid flies, flower flies, and mini wasps. This bright yellow flower also attracts plenty of other insect species that are beneficial in the food chain, and, conveniently, it tolerates most kinds of soil.
2. Cup Plant (Silphium Perfoliatum)
As the name suggests, this member of the Aster family is a flowering plant that forms deep cups near the stem. The cups collect water from rain and dew, acting as natural reservoirs for thirsty insects. Its flowers are also attractive and pleasantly scented, attracting many insects that feed on nectar and pollen.
3. Bachelor's Buttons or Cornflower (Centaurea Cyanus)
Bachelor's buttons are a unique flower known for high sugar nectar, tastier than that from other flowers. For this reason, the flower attracts plenty of insects that love sugar, like ladybugs, wasps, lacewings, and flower flies.
Even better, it's an all year draw, since its leaves release nectar even when it's not in bloom. This plant thrives in most parts of North America and is tolerant of most soil types.
4. Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium)
Yarrows are perennial plants that can survive in any weather and most soils. These plants are known for their trademark bunches of tiny flowers, produced randomly and in clusters. They make excellent borders, both for decoration and protection from harmful insects.
Yarrow is also known for medicinal value, specifically pain-killing and anti-inflammatory properties. Its flowers produce a faint scent that attracts insects that feed on pollen and nectar, such as ladybugs, bees, and beetles.
5. Anise Hyssop (Agastache Foeniculum)
This flowering plant does well in the subtropical regions, and produces attractive purple or violet flowers. Hyssop flowers are rich with nectar and attract many beneficial insects like butterflies and bees. Thanks to its scented leaves, many insect species find a home in its flower cups.
6. Borage (Borago Officinalis)
The borage plant produces a beautiful flower that can be used to make attractive borders, and even makes a tasty addition to salads and snacks (the petals taste like cucumbers). These plants are used as a breeding ground by several insects including ladybugs and lacewings. Its yummy flowers can attract more than 100 different species of insect.