As with your own family, plants in the same family share similar needs, challenges and physical characteristics. In this case, we are going to look at a few plant families that attract beneficial insects (and spiders). Insects are attracted to pollen and nectar provided by flowers and stick around to eat up harmful garden pests. The three families that we will focus on in this article are: Apiaceae (carrot) family, Asteraceae (aster) family, and Lamiaceae (mint) family. Include plants from all three of these families to ensure a diverse food source for beneficial insects.
The Apiaceae (Carrot) Family includes hollow stem plants with taproots and flat-topped flowers called umbels. Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), which attracts hover flies, parasitic wasps, ladybugs, lacewings, predatory wasps and minute pirate bugs, is a great example of the flowers in this family. The umbrella-like umbels provide clusters of small flowers and a flat landing pad for beneficial insects. The following are flowers and herbs to include in your garden along with the beneficial insects that they attract.
- Angelica (Angelica) – lady bugs, lacewings, hover flies, parasitic wasps
- Caraway (Carum caryi) – hover flies, minute pirate bug, big-eyed bug, lacewings, parasitic wasps
- Chervil (Anthrisdcuss cerefolium) – parasitic wasps
- Coriander/ Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) – hover flies, parasitic wasps, tachinid flies, lacewings, lady bugs
- Dill (Anethum graveolens) – hover flies, lady bugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps
- Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) – hover flies, parasitic wasps
- Loveage (Lovisticum officinale) – predatory wasps
The Asteracea (Aster) Family includes many of our favorite showy flowers. These are also favorites of many beneficial insects. The list is long, but I tried to include my most beloved.
- Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) – lacewings, ladybugs, assassin bugs, big-eyed bugs, hover fly, minute pirate bug, tachinid flies, parasitic wasps
- Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) – ladybugs
- Coreopsis (Coreopsis) – ladybugs, lacewings, assassin bugs, big-eyed bugs, minute pirate bug, hover fly, tachinid flies, parasitic wasps, spiders
- Cosmos (Cosmos binpinnatus) – hover flies, lacewings,
- Goldenrod (Solidago) – hover flies, parasitic wasps, assassin bugs, big-eyed bugs, ladybugs, spiders
- Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia tagetifolia) – hover flies, spiders
- Sunflower (Helianthus annuus & debilis) – hover flies, ladybugs, parasitic wasps
- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) – hover flies, ladybug larvae, parasitic wasps, spiders
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – hover flies, parasitic wasps, overwintering site for spiders
The Lamiaceae (mint) family is a wonderful collection of culinary herbs that are wonderful ground covers and beneficial attractors. Harvest these useful herbs for your kitchen, but allow some of the plants to flower in order to enjoy their beneficial insect attracting qualities. In addition to attracting beneficial insects, mint family members attract pollinators such as bees and butterflies, yet confuse potential pests with their strong fragrance. Below are my favorites!
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – parasitic wasps
- Bee Balm (Monarda) – lacewings, ladybugs, assissin bugs, big-eyed bugs, minute pirate bugs, tachinid flies, parasitic wasps
- Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum)– lacewings, ladybugs, assissin bugs, big-eyed bugs, minute pirate bugs, tachinid flies, parasitic wasps, spiders
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare) – lacewings, minute pirate bug, big-eyed bug, parasitic wasps
- Saga (Salvia) – parasitic wasps
- Thyme (Thumus vulgaris) – parasitic wasps