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The Beneficial Insects You Want to Have in Your Garden

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Do you feel squeamish around bugs? Don?t be! There are so many beneficial insects out there that help protect your garden from potentially damaging pests. This post will help you get to know the good bugs you absolutely want in your garden!

Learn to Identify the GOOD BUGS in your garden

Did you know that most insects are not pests at all? Unfortunately, ?bugs? get a bad rap just because they are weird-looking. In practice, many garden insects act as free garden labour, and they are worth getting to know.

The Plight of Bugs

Too many kids and adults are afraid of bugs and it?s a crying shame. This idea that our homes and gardens should not have any insects is unhealthy for our beautiful earth and all of us who live here.

The Windshield Phenomenon

I remember as a child going for drives in the car and having the windshield covered with smushed flying insects. We used to make jokes like, ?Ew, that was a juicy one.? The windshield fluid was used more tents_2470 for cleaning up bug parts than anything else.

While I didn?t revel in seeing insects die such a gruesome death, I sure miss those times now.

I almost never see a bug on my windshield when I?m driving now. This absence even has a name:  and it?s very concerning.

essential guide to lavender: bumble bee on Spanish lavender

Protecting the Most Beloved Beneficial Insect: Bees

It wasn?t that long ago that bees were almost universally feared.

Thankfully, the plight of the most well-known beneficial insects, bees, is becoming pretty mainstream now. Many folks have made a big change from fearing bees to wanting to support and protect them.

Like most gardeners and farmers, I love bees and welcome them into my garden. I roll out the red carpet of , , and .

Most of all, I never, ever spray pesticides in my garden. All insects are vulnerable to insecticides, whether they are helpful predators like ladybugs, essential pollinators like bees, or pests like aphids. Instead, I opt to use a .

The 3 Types of Beneficial Insects

It?s never been a more important time than now to learn about how to attract and protect good bugs into your garden. There are three types of beneficial insects you could find in your yard:

  1. Pollinators
  2. Predators
  3. Parasitoids

I?ve written a lot about in the past, so today I would like you to meet some of the latter two, the predators and parasitoids. These beneficial insects act as crowd control for aphids, leafhoppers, mites, thrips, and more potentially damaging pests.

I am excited to introduce you to some of the other good guys in the garden.

Bees are hardworking pollinators but there are a bunch of other good bugs that you should also be inviting and celebrating in your garden.

Garden Alchemy Cover

Beneficial Insects: Predator Bugs

Predatory bugs help to keep pest populations down. In my book, I wrote: ?You don?t have an aphid infestation, you have a ladybug scarcity.?

To control the pests that you are battling with, look for how you can invite predators. That way, the pest control happens while you put up your feet and . It sounds like a win to me!

Beneficial Insects You Want in Your Garden

It?s hard to narrow down this list of beneficial insects to just a few. However, I chose these because they are common and more well-known then some of their counterparts.

These are just some of the key groups to watch for this summer. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but an introduction to some of the great biodiversity keeping pests in check in your home landscape.

Additionally, I want to share a fantastic resource I have used to learn all about beneficial insects. Some of the info in this post comes from a fantastic book, written by Mary Gardiner, Associate Professor, Department of Entomology, The Ohio State University. She absolutely knows her stuff and I can?t recommend her book to you enough.

Photos and excerpts printed with permission from Good Garden Bugs: Everything You Need to Know about Beneficial Insects by Mary Gardiner ? 2015. Published by Quarry Books.

Now, onto the beneficial insects!

Green Lacewings (Family Chrysopidae)

Green lacewing bug, one of several beneficial insects, resting on a green leaf.

According to Mary, ?adult green lacewings have a long slender body and four intricately-veined wings. Depending on the species, adult green lacewings may be predators or pollen feeders. Species of green lacewings are found throughout the US? and Canada.

She shares even more info about why these bugs are so helpful by writing,?all lacewing larvae are voracious predators; their cycle shaped jaws are used to pierce aphids and other soft-bodied prey. They may feed on honeydew, a sugary substance secreted by aphid pests.?

Close up of green lacewing eggs on a leaf

Be sure to keep an eye out for their eggs when doing garden work (see image above). They are up on tall strands like this to protect the eggs from predators but also from their kin! The greenwing larva are such vigorous predators, they would even eat each other if in the way.

Hover Flies or Flower Flies (Family: Syrphidae)

Hover Fly

This family is one of the most common beneficial insects you will find in the garden. Hover flies are also one of my favourite garden visitors because of how they hover in the air when flying ? it?s such fun to watch! They almost look like miniature hummingbirds. Hover flies also are pollinators, so they are doubly beneficial!

Mary writes, ?They get their name from their ability to hover in midair and make quick motions while darting among flowers hunting for prey. Adults range from 4-24 mm and are actually pollinators! They visit flowers and consume pollen and nectar as they perform this important service.

Many species look similar to bees or wasps, but you can distinguish these flies as they only have a total of two wings, while bees and wasps have four. Hover fly females lay eggs in patches of aphids, whiteflies, and other soft-bodied pests. Their slug-like larva hatch and develop by preying upon these pests.?

Ichneumon Wasps (Family: Ichneumonidae)

?This is a large and diverse family of parasitoid wasps with thousands of species present in the US. Ichneumons are parasitoids; a female will search for arthropod prey and deposit one or more eggs in or on located hosts using her ovipositor. Offspring develop by feeding on the host, eventually killing it. Many species in this family have a long ovipositor that looks like a stinger that could harm humans. This is NOT the case: female parasitoid wasps cannot sting people or pets and pose no threat. Hosts of ichneumons vary by species and include caterpillars and beetle larvae. Giant ichneumon females (Megaryssa) reach up to 11.5 cm in length with their ovipositor! These wasps attack horntail sawfly larvae found inside trees.? 

Lady Beetles (Family: Coccinellidae)

Close up of a ladybug with red exterior and black spots sitting on a leaf.

Whether you know them as ladybugs, lady bird beetles, or lady beetles, these predators are voracious predators of aphids, spider mites, thrips, and scales.

?Across the US a high diversity of lady beetle species can be found in home landscapes. Some forage for aphids in trees such as the eye spotted lady beetle and twice-stabbed lady beetle. The pink lady beetle is common within vegetable gardens where it feeds on crop pests and corn pollen. Lady beetle larvae are also predaceous and consume 100s of prey to complete their development?, according to Mary.

?Unfortunately, lady beetles have gotten a bad rap as of late due to the introduction of the multicolored Asian lady beetle into the US. Although an effective predator, this species a nuisance because it invades homes to overwinter. Importantly, some exotic lady beetle species have also been implicated in the decline of our native fauna.?

Read more about here.

Minute Pirate Bugs or Flower Bugs (Family: Anthocoridae)

?This family includes several species of common, tiny predators that attack aphids, scales, spider mites, thrips, small caterpillars and insect eggs. Those in the genus Orius measure 3 to 6 mm in length, and have a dark head and forewings with light and dark patches. Orius species can be found throughout the US. Look for these predators foraging on plants or feeding on pollen and nectar within open flowers. During the heat of the day the often seek refuge in developing leaves that have not completely unfurled. Both adults and developing nymphs feed on prey.?

Minute Pirate Bug

Garden Spiders (Family: Araneidae)

The final beneficial is not listed in Mary?s book but they are one of my most welcome visitors.

Garden spiders are, as the name suggests, often found in gardens. They can also be called orb weavers because they make the most beautiful and intricate orb-shaped webs.

Orb weaver garden spider in the center of its web.

Every year in October (near Halloween) I do a talk for kids on garden spiders and how much I love them. The talk should probably be in June because that is when the garden spiders hatch here and my garden is covered in tripwire webs around every corner! I let the spiders hatch and eventually they move on, but for a few weeks there are so many babies.

Hatched baby spiders clustered in a ball together

There are so many reasons that spiders are excellent for your yard. I like them in my garden because they catch and eat mosquitoes! The more spiders, the merrier, I say.

Close up of a garden spider in the center of a web.

There is a lot of fascinating info out there about spiders. I particularly found . For example, did you know that not all spiders spin webs? It?s true! Some spiders simply prefer to chase their prey down by foot rather than entangle them in webs. Again, the more the merrier I say!

More Posts About Beneficial Insects:

 

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Easily make a beautiful DIY chandelier for your garden! This post will show you how to make eco-friendly hanging solar lights to enjoy in your own backyard outdoor living space.

DIY hanging solar light hung in a tree

If you want to add a little ambiance and whimsy to your garden area, I have a fun and easy DIY chandelier project for you today. In a spark of creativity (and inspired by my ), I decided to make hanging solar lights for my play garden by making a solar chandelier. 

I am so happy with the way it turned out that I want to show you how to make it too.

I love creating ambiance in my garden, but anything I create for my garden needs to be clean and green. This DIY outdoor solar chandelier definitely fits that requirement, and it?s easy and fun to make too, which is a bonus!

You can make your outdoor living space beautiful, fun, and inviting without paying a higher electric bill or running cords through your yard. All you need is to harness the power of the sun.

How Does The Hanging Solar Light Hold Up?

I originally made this in the summer of 2015 when I built my son?s play garden. While many elements of the garden have changed over the past 5 years, I still have the chandelier. Even though I have never changed the solar light, it still glows every night for an hour or so after the sun sets!

A question I often get asked is how it can charge in the shade. The answer is that a solar light works best when charged in direct sun, but it will still charge with ambient light. Less light when charging will make the light glow less bright and for less time.

Additionally, older lights also perform less well than newer ones. I can easily replace the light when it?s needed but so far so good. I get just enough light to make this a wonderful garden feature.

As far as how well it holds up outdoors, I have left it in the garden for 5 years in all weather conditions ? through winter, storms, rain, and sun. It?s been completely maintenance-free.

Hanging Solar Lights: Outdoor DIY Chandelier

This DIY solar chandelier light is an easy project that took me no more than fifteen minutes to put together, and since then, it has become one of my most-loved decorative objects in the garden. 

I love the whimsical touch it adds hanging from the tree above the rustic table-and-chair set in my backyard .

You can make your own solar lighting chandelier in no time with a few common materials. Then, have even more fun letting your imagination run wild or include your kids as you decorate it. 

Hang it up somewhere that it can catch the light and enjoy watching it shine. This DIY chandelier is so gorgeous that you just end up calling it your solar fairy lights because it might attract some fairies to your garden.

Materials Needed for Your Outdoor Solar Chandelier

  • ? An inexpensive one is all you need.
  • ? You may also repurpose an old wire basket which will have the chains already.
  • ? Look for a solar light that will charge in the shade if that is where you want to hang your solar lights. 
  • , , or ? Choose whatever you will enjoy looking at the most.

Make Your Hanging Solar Lights DIY Chandelier Project

Follow these 4 easy steps, and in just a few minutes, you?ll have your very own solar chandelier!

DIY Solar Light Chandelier instructions

1. Get Your Wire Hanging Basket Ready

Start with a hanging basket that has a round circle of wire at the bottom. This will be used to hold the solar light. 

Look for a solar light that will sit in the hole without needing to be glued or adjusted in any way. I used a  and removed the stake.

DIY Solar Light Chandelier sitting on a gray paver

2. Attach the Chains Your Chandelier Can Hang

Move the chains that hold the basket from the top of the basket. Turn the basket so that it is convex and reattach the chains to the top wires around the hole.

DIY Solar Light Chandelier

3. Install the Solar Light

This step is actually quite simple. Set in the solar light and you are ready to decorate!

DIY Solar Light Chandelier

4. Decorate Your DIY Chandelier

I chose to use crystals so that they would sparkle and reflect the solar lights at night. 

You could add beads or even seashells instead (I can just imagine a gorgeous beach-themed chandelier with shells and sea glass dangling from it!). You could also spray paint the whole thing (except the light) for a pop of color to add to your garden. 

However you decide to decorate, it is completely up to you. I personally think this is the perfect place to include your kids and have them help decorate and use their creative imagination. 

Have fun making it fit your personality so that you enjoy looking at it in your garden space!

Fairy Garden Solar Light Chandelier

The Difference A Little Ambiance Can Make

My hanging solar lights look wonderful hanging in the play garden. I was pleasantly surprised at what a big difference it made to the overall feel of the entire space.

Did you know there are solar lights that can charge in the sun and in the shade? If you want to put solar lights in a shady area of your garden, definitely check to verify that you have the type of solar lights that will charge in shady areas.

Note: They may not stay lit quite as long or shine as bright as solar lights that charge in the sun, but they will work.

Hanging Solar Lights Project: Final Thoughts

The play garden was already decked out with and other kid-friendly features, but this chandelier added yet another element of playfulness without looking like it was overtly designed for children.

I chose to hang my chandelier from a tree above my rustic stump table, where I keep an old tea kettle as a planter.

Fairy Garden Solar Light Idea

The reflective crystals on the chandelier balance well with the shiny metal of the tea kettle planter, and I love the look of the chandelier hanging from a tree, as it both contrasts with and compliments the natural elements around it.

Whimsical Fairy Garden Solar Light

It also lights up beautifully at night. There?s nothing like watching the crystals twinkle in the moonlight!

Fairy Garden Solar Light at night

I hope you love this hanging solar lights project as much as I love mine. 

For more solar light fun, check out these and . And, don?t forget to for my newsletter to get new projects every week.

Check Out These Other Garden Decor and DIY Ideas:

DIY Hanging Solar Lights

This eco-friendly hanging solar light will help add a dash of playful whimsy to your garden. Learn how to turn a basic solar light into a beautiful outdoor chamdelier.

Supplies

  • 1   Choose a wire basket with a round wire circle at the bottom.
  •  
  • 1
  • , , or  

Instructions

  • Attach chains to the wire basket with the basket upside down
  • Remove the stake from a solar light, then insert it on top of the basket. It's best if it fits without needing to be glued down at all.
  • Decorate the chandelier with beads, crystals, shells, or anything else that you'd like to use.
  • Hang the DIY solar light and enjoy.

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If your hands are chapped and dry from washing and sanitizing, you?ll love this DIY hand cream. If you have never done it before, you?ll be amazed at how much fun it is to learn how to make lotion from holistic, natural ingredients.

All natural DIY hand cream

I?ve always considered myself a very hygienic person, and have done my fair share of hand washing. These days, however, hand washing and sanitizing has been taken to a whole new level. While my hands are certainly clean, they are also rough, dry, and starting to chap.

As a gardener, I?m quite used to my hands taking a bit of abuse, but I always make a point of treating my hands to a rehydration treatment of some kind. My current favorite is this DIY hand cream. It feels luxurious and smells fantastic too!

Benefits of Hand Cream

DIY hand cream in a glass jar with purple accents

Using a DIY hand cream like this one certainly feels good, but there are other important reasons you should be using lotion. Moisturizing your hands regularly keeps the delicate skin on your hands from breaking down.

As skin is what protects our bodies, it?s important to keep it resilient to damage and resistant to germs. Keeping your hands soft makes you more comfortable while also giving your skin a more healthful appearance.

Supplies for DIY Hand Cream

Amber jars filled with homemade lotion

There are three different phases in this homemade lotion recipe, and each requires its own ingredients. Here is everything you need to have on hand:

Distilled Water

Distilled water is created when water is boiled into a vapor state then condensed back into a liquid. This process removes 99.9% of impurities within the water.

Using distilled water instead of tap water or any other kind of water is crucial for a project like this. If you use any other kind of water, your lotion can harbor harmful bacteria that you don?t want to rub your hands in.

Lavender Hydrosol

Hydrosols are getting a lot more attention lately?and for good reason. Hydrosols are produced through a distillation process of flowers, bark, peels, berries, wood, and other organic material.

Lavender hydrosol, in particular, is a known antiseptic and oil solvent. I like . It can be used for cleaning, personal care, pet care, and so many other uses.

I use lavender hydrosol in many homemade beauty products, including my . It?s important to note that while this hydrosol does have some disinfecting properties, on its own it does not meet the alcohol level required for sanitization. .

Grapeseed Oil

is a fantastic option for recipes like this DIY hand cream. It is fast-absorbing and light, without being greasy at all. Additionally, grapeseed oil is also full of antioxidants that can help keep your skin healthy.

Sunflower Oil

Another favorite option for homemade lotion is . This type of oil is very hydrating for your skin. It?s also fast-absorbing and can work great as an herb-infused oil. In this particular recipe, the sunflower oil is infused with calendula which helps take on the plant?s properties. Plus. sunflower oil is an excellent source of antioxidants and vitamin E, both essential for healthy skin.

BTMS 25+ Cetyl Alcohol

As you probably know, water and oil don?t mix. To help your water-based ingredients and your oil-based ingredients come together into a homogeneous mixture, you need an emulsifier, which is what is.

is a thickener that helps keep this homemade lotion nice and thick.

Both of these are plant-based and could use names that sound less intimidating because they are essential to this recipe.

BTMS is plant-based emulsifying wax that is naturally derived from Colza or Rapeseed oil and cetyl alcohol is a plant-based fatty alcohol derived from coconut or palm. Whenever you come across an ingredient that makes you think twice, you can always look them up on the .

Learn more about each in my post about .

How to Make DIY Hand Cream

Glass jar with lid screwed on with homemade lotion inside.

Now that you know why the ingredients are in this recipe, let?s talk about how to make it.

Ingredients in DIY Hand Cream

Makes 100g ? enough to fill 3 x 2 oz jars

Aqueous Phase Ingredients

  • 35 g distilled water
  • 20 g hydrosol
  • 2 g
  • 2 g

Oil Phase Ingredients

  • 10 g  ()
  • 10 g  ()
  • 4 g
  • 4 g
  • 2 drops Vitamin E oil

Cool Phase Ingredients

  • 3 g
  • 6 drops

Make it!

The first thing you need to do when making this DIY hand cream is to sanitize all of your equipment and the workspace. This will help prevent bacteria growth, and I highly encourage you not to skip this step.

There is nothing worse than making a gorgeous hand cream and having to toss it out because of mold growth after a few weeks. I have made the mistake of reusing jars that were washed only in the dishwasher and not sanitized with alcohol, and has to throw away a batch. I only made that mistake once as it was so heartbreaking to throw it away.

Next, use to begin measuring out your oil ingredients as listed above. I add them to a .

 

weighing ingredients in a beaker

Next, measure all of the water ingredients and add them to a different heatproof container (I used a this time)

weighing ingredients for diy hand cream in a Turkish coffee pot

Use a double boiler to heat up the oil-based ingredients and the water-based ones. You can even make your own double boiler as I did in the image below.

Heat everything to 160 degrees, then keep it at that temperature for 20 minutes. Just like when you can fruits and vegetables, this will help to kill off any bacteria.

keeping the water ingredients and oil ingredients hot

Next, pull out a mixing bowl and pour the oil ingredients in first. Then add the water-based ingredients. Combine them together with an electric mixer until they thicken up and cool.

Combining ingredients with an electric mixer

Continually check the temperature of the ingredient mix. Once it goes down to 80 degrees, you can add the cool phase ingredients. These are all heat-sensitive and will break down at temperatures that are too high, so it is important to make sure your lotion is cool enough.

adding ingredients to a larger container for mixing

Keep using the mixer to mix up your day hand cream. You want it to be thick, but not as fluffy as your typical lotion.

How to Apply Homemade Lotion on Your Hands

This DIY hand cream is fast-absorbing and not at all greasy. This recipe is richer than many commercial lotions. It uses less water, which means you need to use less lotion to get great hydration.

Simply wash your hands well, then dry them. Next, apply a small, dime-sized amount and rub it into your skin to absorb.

Whipped hand cream in an amber jar surrounded by purple flowers.

How to Store DIY Hand Cream

I?ve prepared this recipe in small pots rather than in a pump, although you certainly could put it into a pump. I like having it in so they can be tossed in a bag and taken with you.

It?s also best to apply small amounts on a regular basis to help repair dry skin and the damage done by frequent hand washing.

However you store this lotion, make sure to use it all within 3 months.

3 glass jars filled with DIY hand cream surrounded by florals

More Plant-Based Beauty Projects to Try:

Amber jars filled with homemade lotion

DIY Hand Cream

If your hands are dry and dull from an increase in washing or dry weather, make this healing DIY hand cream! It's absorbent and non-greasy.

Equipment

  • Double boiler
  • 2 heatproof containers

Supplies

Aqueous Phase Ingredients

  • 35 grams
  • 20 grams  hydrosol
  • 2 grams
  • 2 grams

Oil Phase Ingredients

  • 10 grams  ()
  • 10 grams  ()
  • 4 grams 25
  • 4 grams
  • 2 drops

Cool Phase Ingredients

  • 3 grams
  • 6 drops

Instructions

  • Clean and sanitize your workstation and all equipment.
  • Measure your oil ingredients with a kitchen scale and pour them into a heatproof container
  • Measure your water ingredients using a scale. Then pour in to a separate heatproof container.
  • Use a double boiler to heat both the oil ingredient container and the water one to 160 degrees. Keep it at that temperature for 20 minutes to kill off any bacteria.
  • Pour the oil ingredients into a mixing bowl, then add the water ingredients. Combine them together with a hand mixer.
  • Continue mixing until they heat up and cool down to 80 degrees. Once it's at 80 degrees, add in the cool phase ingredients.
  • Use the mixer to whip it up until it's fully mixed. It should be thick, but not as fluffy as lotion. Scoop the hand cream into small jars and use within 3 months.

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