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Creepy crawlies that help you in the garden

01 June 2021

For some keen gardeners, just thinking about the creepy crawlies helping themselves to your bountiful crops and flourishing flowers is enough to make you shiver. It’s not all doom and gloom, though.

Nature has its own way of taking care of those critters that can cause issues for your greenery. From pest control to pollination, there’s a surprising number of animals and insects giving you a helping hand behind the scenes.

So who should you be encouraging to come and pay a visit?

Ladybirds

Ladybird on leaf
This friendly little beetle will love eating aphids.
Image source: Shutterstock

These lovely little insects will be commonly associated with snacking on aphids, so should be a welcome guest to most gardens. They also like helping themselves to mites, mealybugs, and whitefly - it is estimated that a ladybird will eat more than 5,000 aphids in their 3 year lifespan! Their larvae meanwhile will eat around 400 aphids before they pupate. That’s a lot of eating!

Ladybird larvae on leaf
These intimidating larvae are effective pest control.
Image source: Shutterstock

Ladybirds like to be near angelica, basket of gold, coreopsis, or members of the parsley family, such as carrots, parsley, dill, fennel, and yarrow. As long as they’ve got plenty of aphids to eat, they’ll be sticking around. Chemicals and insecticides should be used sparingly, as it won’t just be the problematic insects you’ll be ridding yourself of - these friendly little beetles will do the job just fine!

You can accommodate for ladybirds by adding a bug hotel to your garden. You can either buy one, or make one yourself by tying some bamboo or cow parsley stems together. Hide it in a tree, or find a nook in a garden wall for them to make it their home.

Spiders

Spider in web closeup
They may not be everyone's favourite visitors, but they'll eat those unwanted pests that plague your plants.
Image: Shutterstock

They’re certainly not everyone’s favourite creepy crawly to find lying in wait, but these eight legged arachnids are surprisingly helpful to your garden. The web spinning spiders are fantastic for catching flying insects, which can help you keep the pest population down. Most spiders will help themselves to aphids, so you can stay safe in the knowledge that they’re helping keep your garden under control.

A good way to make sure that spiders take up residence, is making sure you’ve got plenty of things to attract other insects. Vegetation, trees, log piles, and hedges will provide ample places not just for insects to explore, but also somewhere spiders can spin their webs.

Earthworms

Worm in dirt closeup
These squiggly little fellows are vital for your soil.
Image: Shutterstock

If you don’t think you need earthworms in your garden, think again. These little critters are incredibly helpful for aerating your soil. Earth or dead leaves get eaten by the earthworms, which come out partially digested, and will help give your plants the nutrients they need. You can be sure that earthworms will keep your soil oxygenated, aid drainage, and make it much easier for roots to penetrate the earth. Even their worm casts bring essential minerals back up to the surface. These are the squiggly bits of mud that you sometimes see above the ground - so rejoice rather than curse these helpful creatures when you see their worm casts on your lawn!

Earthworms prefer soil that is left undisturbed, so you’re more likely to find them in your lawn than your flower beds. You can, however, rotate where you place your crops each year to ensure that the earthworms will visit the fallow patches. This will rejuvenate them with the essential minerals they need to help you have a more successful growing year.

They will also make themselves at home in your compost, which will be a great source of nutrients for your veg patch. Make sure that you clear leaves from your lawn in autumn, as this can smother the grass. You can leave a top-dressing of sieved leaf-mould which will be an endless help to the worms beneath the surface.

Hoverflies

Hoverfly on yellow flower
Their larvae are great for pest control, and the adults are effective pollinators.
Image source: Shutterstock

Not to be confused with wasps, these harmless little black and yellow insects are an incredibly useful ally to have flitting around your garden. The larvae are helpful for clearing away annoying aphids, and the adult hoverflies are wonderful pollinators.

Hoverflies love ice plants, dill, and fennel, as well as highly scented flowers such as roses, sweet peas, and chrysanthemums. Any of these plants will encourage hoverflies to take up residence in your garden!

Butterflies

Two monarch butterflies on flowers
Butterflies come in all shapes and colours.
Image: Shutterstock

While the caterpillar will be more commonly known with eating your plants rather than helping them, the butterfly is a wonderful native pollinator. After all, your plants will struggle to thrive if they don’t get fertilised.

Butterflies love sunny spots filled with plants that caterpillars eat, as well as flowers rich in nectar. Though if you truly abhor seeing caterpillars munching away on your hard earned greenery, we would recommend maybe trying to cater to bees’ tastes instead to get your plants pollinated.

Things to remember…

Introduce a pond to your garden - this will provide many helpful critters with a water source, which will mean that they’re more likely to return to your garden time and time again.

A compost heap will be a haven for smaller insects and even some mammals who can in turn help out with pest control.

Ensure you plant a variety of flowers and plants, to give native pollinators as well as the rest of your garden a helping hand.

Whichever irritating insects or animals are running riot in your flower beds, you can be sure that these natural predators and pollinators will have everything under control. There are plenty of animals who can help your garden, too.

What visitors do you like finding in your garden because of their natural talents? Leave a comment on our Facebook page to share your tips for encouraging them to feel at home in your outdoor area!

Lead image: Shutterstock

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