Friends with benefits

To the untrained eye it’s tempting to think that anything that creeps, crawls or buzzes around your garden is just a nuisance, but look again. Those in the know are aware that there are numerous tiny creatures that earn their keep in the great outdoors, either by predating horticultural baddies such as greenfly or caterpillars, or by pollinating our fruit and vegetables. We all know that bees are busy pollinating our food crops, but let us introduce you to some more of these diminutive yet valuable garden additions.

Everyone (hopefully!) knows that ladybirds are useful allies on the plot. Both the adult beetles, plus their black and orange larvae have a healthy appetite for aphids. In the height of summer you can expect to see vulnerable plants housing a healthy population of these beetles. Also keep an eye out for the larvae of lacewings and hoverflies. Neither are particularly conspicuous or attractive (they look a bit like legless green maggots) but both claim aphids as their favourite food. Growing daisy-like flowers will attract adult hoverflies, and providing shelter in the form of insect hotels will lure in lacewings.

Install a garden pond and within a few days it will be teaming with life, specifically damsel – and dragonflies. While these two insects may look incredibly graceful, they hide a robust appetite for midges, mosquitoes, butterflies and moths. Cabbage white caterpillars be warned! And being an untidy gardener can have its benefits. Leaf litter is a preferred habitat of ground beetles. Their varied diet of flies, weevils, caterpillars, aphids, slugs and snails means that we have the perfect excuse to throw away our garden rake.