My favorite entomologist, Dr. Tess Grasswitz, has published new and FREE guides to beneficials in New Mexico. They are available for download from NMSU’s website and have great photos and descriptions. Go to the above link and scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the link for either IPM for Home Gardeners or the Guide to Beneficial Insects of New Mexico.
There is a ton of great information on Tess’s Integrated Pest Management website, and the information is applicable to more than just New Mexico. Take a look. Thanks, Tess (& thanks, Rebecca, for sharing the link!)!
Here is one of my favorite tips for increasing beneficials in the garden:
Let plants go to seed. Especially dill, wild carrot, cilantro, basil, fennel, etc. This can be tricky when you have a small garden, but try to include a row for pollinators. The benefit of doing this really hit home a few years back when I let the collards that I grew over the winter go to seed in the spring.
I briefly worried that I would be creating habitat for early populations of the cabbage moths, but what I discovered instead was that although the cabbage moths had an earlier food source, so did the parasitic wasps that preyed on them. What I noticed after a few years of letting collards go to seed was that not only were my populations of cabbage moths reduced, the large branched collard plants provided seed (and insects) and perches for birds, habitat for spiders and lady beetles (which I typically see more in the Umbelliferae plants but perhaps early in the spring they take what they can get). And, I had “free” new collard plants growing without having to do any work on my part.
Again, this is really only practical in a “wild” type garden, but I always keep some wild areas along the micro-managed gardens for beneficials and have noticed very minimal pest pressure on the veggies (except for squash bugs, but that’s another post!). I’d love to hear what others are doing in smaller gardens to encourage beneficials.