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Natural Awakenings Charlotte

Forget the Chemicals and Bring on the Bugs- Natural Alternatives for Pesticides

Whether growing a bounty of fresh produce or a landscape of blooming plants, we want our gardens to look and perform at their best. This often means battling bugs that can suck the life from your plants. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to buy a bunch of chemicals to keep your garden healthy and happy. You can Do Your Part to tread lightly and reduce your eco-footprint when you opt for natural solutions in your garden. It’s important to know that not all bugs are bad. There are a number that are actually good for your garden and can virtually eliminate the need for chemicals. These so-called “beneficial bugs” will eat unwanted pests that destroy the plants in your garden.

There are two ways to bring beneficial bugs into your garden. You can create a garden insectary with a small plot of flowering plants that attracts beneficial insects and serves as their home base. Marigolds, dill, fennel, lemon balm and sunflowers are just a few of the plants that can assist you in pesticide-free gardening. You can also purchase beneficial bugs to put right into your garden.

Ladybugs are one kind of beneficial bug that can devour 5,000 aphids in less than a year! Aphids love to feed on the new growth of many garden crops and ornamental plants. Release a few hundred ladybugs once or twice a season into your garden and you won’t have any problems with aphids. Of course, you have to get the ladybugs to stay in your garden to be effective, so it’s best to release them at dusk when fewer of them will fly away. First, water the plants with the aphid infestation. The thirsty ladybugs will go there for a drink and then stay for a meal.

Praying Mantises are garden-friendly insects that eat flies, mosquitoes, spiders, aphids, and leafhoppers. They’re also entertaining to watch! It’s best to release the eggs in the spring so add this to next year’s garden shopping list. But be careful, you’ll only need a few eggs.

Trichogramma wasps prey on the eggs of over 200 worm pests. The tiny wasps lay eggs directly on the pest's eggs, killing the eggs when they hatch. When the wasps mature, they fly off to search for new eggs to parasitize. Beneficial bugs are eco-logical, inexpensive solutions to getting rid of pests in your garden and are safer for you and the environment. So where can you find beneficial bugs? Locally, Renfrow’s Hardware store in Matthews has them, but call ahead for availability.

You can also find them online at or

Terri†Bennett is an earth scientist and mom. Visit her website at † or contact her at†[email protected].

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