Garden of Eatin' / Insects & Worms

3 Easy Recipes for Attracting Beneficial Insects to Your Garden

3 easy recipes for attracting beneficial insects to your garden

If you find yourself constantly battling aphids, mites, thrips, mealybugs, and other insect pests, don’t reach for the pesticide just yet.

Build up your army of good bugs and let them do the work for you!

Beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies are powerful allies to have in the garden, and keeping them around is key to a healthy and biodiverse landscape.

But it isn’t the adult bugs that you need to target. Adult ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies actually feed on nectar and pollen.

Their hungry offspring, however, can’t get enough of small pests—they’re the ones who feast voraciously like teenagers while they’re in the larval stage.

Close-up of lacewing larva on a leaf
Lacewing larva

That means the goal of any good ecosystem is having a wide range of beneficial flowers for adult insects to land on, lay their eggs, and introduce the real army of larvae that you want.

But if your pollinator garden has yet to bloom, how can you attract these beneficial bugs quickly and easily, and make sure they stick around long enough to prey on pests?

By giving them a free meal!

You can offer a natural homemade food source placed strategically around your plants (especially plants that are overrun by pests). This will help draw good bugs to the garden and encourage them to stay a while. All you need are a few simple household ingredients to get started.

Close-up of adult green lacewing on a leaf
Adult green lacewing

Homemade Wheast

Wheast, a combination of whey and yeast, is the standard feed used by commercial insectaries. It’s basically ladybug and lacewing food.

In a home garden, it works as a food supplement for beneficial insects you introduce, and it also helps attract more insects. This version is similar to what you can buy in garden centers, minus the whey.

  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brewer’s yeast

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and yeast with a small spoonful of water at a time, mixing until it becomes the consistency of a paste.

Spread the paste onto small wooden stakes or popsicle sticks, and insert them in the soil around your plants. (This works especially well if you release ladybugs in the garden.)

Sugar Water Spray (Ladybug Food)

If you release ladybugs in your garden, spray this mixture on your plants to feed them right away so they linger a little longer.

  • 1 quart water
  • 10 tablespoons white sugar

In a glass or plastic container, stir the sugar in water until it’s dissolved.

Pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray it on plants that are heavily infested with aphids. (Make sure you release ladybugs at the base of those plants—they’ll crawl up to find their food.)

Beneficial Bug Food

This recipe uses a little honey to attract the good bugs. It will store in the fridge for up to 10 days in a covered container, so be sure to make a new batch if you don’t use it all up.

  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brewer’s yeast
  • 2 teaspoons honey

Combine all of the ingredients in a glass or plastic container.

To use it, dilute 2 tablespoons of the mixture in 1 quart of warm water until well blended. Pour the solution in a spray bottle and spray on your plants from spring to early summer (as long as temperatures stay under 80°F).

About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »

1 Comment

  • Nicole reiman
    May 25, 2021 at 7:53 am

    Do you have a recipe for wheast that includes whey? I have some leftover from making cheese 😉

    Reply

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