plant florida friendly

Garden To-Do’s – Beneficial Insects

One of the great things about our dry, warm April is the burgeoning population of insects. Yikes! Am I crazy? Nope; when prey insect numbers rise, predator insects have plenty to eat. That’s a great thing for gardeners because predators help us keep down pesticide use.

Ladybugs

Ladybugs are Beneficial Insects. Photo credit: Anne Yasalonis, UF/IFAS Extension

For example, let’s say we want to have plenty of ladybugs, syrphid fly larvae, and tiny parasitic wasps in our garden so as to control aphids on our veggies. Having lots of prey will increase predator populations, so we can plant something ornamental that will grow aphids, like . . . a crape myrtle. Crape myrtles attract aphids, and it doesn’t seem to bother them much, although sometimes the sticky exudate from the aphids can be annoying to humans. (That’s one reason crape myrtles are best planted out in the landscape.)

Another plant that supports beneficial insects is sunflowers. Some beneficial adults are predators (like ladybugs), but other adults depend on pollen or nectar for lunch. A nice patch of native dune sunflowers will keep beneficial wasp adults healthy and happy. Once you’ve planted your flowers, may I suggest a great project for a cool April morning? Why not construct a pollinator hotel to attract our sweet-tempered, native bees?

Dune Daisy in Bloom

Dune Sunflower in Bloom. Photo credit: Celia Beamish, UF/IFAS Extension

For more information on beneficial insects, please look online at edis.ifas.ufl.edu, gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu, call the Polk County Master Gardeners at 863-519-1041, or drop us a note at polkmg@ufl.edu

This month’s Florida-Friendly™ reminder: mulch around your plants will control weeds and keep the root area cool and moist.

This blog post was written by Master Gardener Celia Beamish under supervision of the Master Gardener Coordinator and Residential Horticulture Agent Anne Yasalonis.

For more information, contact UF/IFAS Extension Polk County at (863) 519-1041 or visit us online at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/polk.  The Plant Clinic is open Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-4:00 pm to answer your gardening and landscaping questions. Visit us in person, give us a call, or email us at polkmg@ifas.ufl.edu.

The Florida Master Gardener Program is a volunteer-driven program that benefits UF/IFAS Extension and the citizens of Florida.  The program  extends the vision of the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible.

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

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