Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects

Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects

terracast Blog

There are certain bugs you want to bring to your yard, like Lacewings – their larvae destroy many of the pests you don’t want around. You can get beneficial insects to your yard by planting the right things to attract them.

Most beneficial insects are in search of nectar because it is rich in carbohydrates. For instance, while ladybugs get a lot of protein from their prey, they need nectar to reproduce. Parasitic wasps and tachinid flies only eat nectar as adults – it’s their larvae who are predaceous. In other words, if your garden doesn’t have enough nectar you won’t attract enough pest-eating insects – as a result, you’ll end up with too many of the ‘bad’ kind of insects, the ones that take away from your garden instead of adding to it.

While deep or tubular flowers provide nectar, most beneficial insects do not have the right mouth shape to access nectar from these types of flowers. They must rely on shallow flowers with more exposed nectar. Bees, on the other hand, are great at accessing nectar from large deep flowers.  Ongoing research is finding more plants that are great at attracting predatory and parasitic beneficial insects.

Here’s a list of some of the best plants to attract beneficial insects:

Achillea millefolium – yarrow

Ammi majus – laceflower

Anethum graveolens – dill

Angelica species – angelica

Baccharis species – baccharis

Boltonia asteroides – boltonia

Coreopsis species – tickseed

Cosmos bipinnatus – cosmos

Eriogonum species – native buckwheat

Eupatorium perfoliatum – common boneset

Helianthus annuus – sunflower

Leucanthemum x superbum – shasta daisy

Labularia maritima – sweet alyssum

Phacelia tanacetifolia – lacy phacelia

Pycnanthemum species – mountain mint

Ratibida pinnata – praire coneflower

Rudbeckia species – black-eyed Susans

Solidago species – goldenrod

Spirea alba – meadowsweet

Symphyotrichum species – hardy aster

Veronicastrum virginicum – Culver’s root

Zizia aurea – golden Alexanders

Zizia aptera – heartleaf Alexanders

Keep in mind, different plants do well in certain regions while other plants do not. It’s important to plant native plants for the greatest success and the least amount of work on your part.

4 Beneficial Insects You Want to Attract to Your Garden


Ladybugs are a fan favorite insect – for one they are adorable, although they are more than just cute. The young larvae (which are black with orange markings) are even more beneficial than the adults because they eat more pests.

Some plants that attract ladybugs include: Fern-leaf yarrow, Common yarrow, Basket of gold, and Carpet bugleweed.


Lacewings are an interesting bug that you want in your garden because their larvae destroy many of the pests you don’t want in your garden. While they look like mini alligators, they are often called aphid lions because they have a habit of eating aphids. In addition, they commonly eat mites, insect eggs, and small insects. During the spring and summer, you may see lacewings on porch lights, screens and windows in the evening.

Some plants that attract lacewings include: Dill, Golden marguerite, Four-wing saltbush, Purple poppy mallow, Caraway, Fennel, Dandelion, Tansy, Queen Anne’s lace, Cosmos white sensation, Coriander, Spike speedwell, Marigold, Rocky Mt. penstemon, prairie sunflower, CA buckwheat, Butterfly weed, Golden marguerite, Dill, Hairy vetch, and Fern-leaf yarrow.

Hoverflies (also known as syrphid fly, predatory aphid fly or flower fly)

As adults, hoverflies look like little bees. They hover in place and then fly away, but they don’t’ sting. Their eggs are white, oval and laid on leaves where they hatch into green, brown, orange, yellow, or white half-inch maggots that resemble caterpillars. You’ll see them reaching up onto their hind legs to catch their prey – which consists of aphids, mealybugs and other insects.

Some plants that attract hoverflies include: Fern-leaf yarrow, Carpet bugleweed, Lavender glob lily, Common yarrow, Basket of gold, Dill, Purple poppy mallow, Feverfew, Dwarf alpine aster, Masterwort, English lavender, Poached egg plant, Statice, Lemon balm, Spearmint, Pennyroyal, Wood betony, Spike speedwell, Stonecrops, and Parsley.

Big eyed bugs

These small grayish-beige bugs are oval-shaped and have large eyes, hence their name. They feed on a variety of insects including leaf hoppers and spider mites. They also eat insect eggs and mites. Their eggs are shaped like a football with whitish-gray tint and red spots.

Some plants that attract big eyed bugs include: Caraway, Cosmos, Fennel, Alfalfa, Spearmint, Peter Pan goldenrod, Marigold.

Some other tips to attract good insects to your yard:

-Plant a variety of different flowers and foliage in your yard. That way they bloom at different times of year and provide pollen as needed.

-Plants that measure 4’ by 4’ are the best at attracting beneficial garden insects.

-Bird baths or some other type of water feature will also help attract more beneficial insects to your yard.

-Allow small populations of bugs to populate your garden, chances are the beneficial insects will find them and take care of them.

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