Beneficials on Farms

This summer, NCAP partnered with several farms to to create or showcase beneficial habitat. Morning Owl Farm, nestled against the Boise Foothills just outside of Boise, Idaho, is creating more on-farm habitat for beneficial insects with the help of NCAP and the Xerces Society. Beneficial habitat is part of Morning Owl Farm's approach to integrated pest management (IPM). 

Adult monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) sucking nectar from a common zinnia. Morning Owl Farms, August 14, 2018

This project is funded by a grant from the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). IPM is defined by NRCS as a site specific combination of pest preventation, pest avoidance, pest monitoring, and pest suppression strategies. Our new Healthy Food and Farms Program Lead, Christina Stucker-Gassi, is excited to be involved in this project to increase the agrological resilience on Morning Owl Farm.

NCAP also partnered with Lackner Family Farm and Cold Springs Farm in the Willamette Valley of Oregon this summer to showcase organic methods for hazelnut production. Bee Lackner, of Lackner Family Farm, says that farmers can keep pest populations under control by strategically adding plants to attract beneficial insects. An important key is to plant a variety of species. This ensures attracting a variety of insects and providing blooms year-round. Beneficial insects will not stay or survive through a season if no food is available.

Hoverfly on Asters, photo courtesy MJI Photos. Hoverflies eat aphids, thrips, scale insects and caterpillars.

The following groups of plants have flowers that provide easily accessible nectar and pollen:

1) plants in the daisy family, such as aster, cosmos and yarrow; 2) plants in the carrot family, such as cilantro, dill, fennel, parsley and wild carrot; 3) alyssum and other members of the mustard family; 4) mints; and 5) buckwheat.

In addition, be sure to include some plants with extrafloral nectaries, which are nectar-producing glands apart from the plant’s flowers. Such plants are an important supplemental food source for lady beetles and other beneficial insects, especially during periods of drought or other extreme weather. Plants with extrafloral nectaries include sunflower, morning glory, peony, elderberry, vetch, willow, plum and peach.

A well-managed hedgerow with a combination of annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees can provide not only food but also shelter –  an ideal habitat for many beneficial bugs.

Many native bees, parasitoid wasps, beetles, and other beneficial insects make their homes in the ground. You can help these ground nesting species by keeping a designated part of your property free from disturbance.

Below is a list the Lackner family curated, using personal experience and information from Mother Earth News, of flowering plants that are known to be good sources of pollen and nectar for beneficial insects.

Xerces Society also offers a great book, Farming with Beneficial Insects, that can be purchased here.

Annual Plants

Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila elegans)

Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea cyanus)

Basils (Ocimum basilicum)

Bee Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)

Bird’s Eyes (Gilia tricolor)

Blue Lace Flower (Trachymene coerulea, aka Didiscus coeruleas)

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum)

Breadseed Poppy (Papaver somniferum)

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

California Poppy (Eschscholtzia californica)

Candytuft (Iberis umbellata)

Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)

Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Crimson Clover (Trifolium incarnatum)

Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Goldfields (Lasthenia californica)

Johnny Jump-Up (Viola cornuta)

Meadow Foam (Limnanthes douglasii)

Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)

Pincushion Flower, aka Sweet Scabious (Scabiosa atropurpurea)

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana)

Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Perennial Plants

Anise Hyssop (Anastache foeniculum)

Asters (Aster alpinus and A. tartaricus)

Blanketflowers (Gaillardia)

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

Califonia Lilac (Ceanothus Spp.)

Canada Anemone (Anemone canadensis)

Carpet Bugleweeds (Ajuga)

Catmints (Nepeta)

Cinquefoils (Potentilla)

Coffeeberry (Rhamnus california)

Coneflowers (Echinacea)

Coreopsis (Coreopsis)

Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis)

Crimson Thyme (Thymus serpyllum coccineus)

Crocus (Crocus)

Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)

Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana)

Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)

Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria)

Goldenrod (Solidago)

Horsemint (Monarda punctata)

Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)

Korean Mint (Anastache rugosa)

Lavender Globe Lily (Allium tanguticum)

Lavenders (Lavandula)

Lupines (Lupinus)

Meadowsweet (Spiraea alba)

Milkweeds (Asclepias)

Mints (Mentha)

Mountain Mints (Pycnanthemum muticum and P. virginianum)

New England Aster (Symphyotrichumnovae-angliae)

Paleleaf Sunflower (Helianthus strumosus)

Penstemon (Penstemon sp)

Peonies (Paeonia)

Riddell’s Goldenrod (Oligoneuron riddellii)

Sand Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)

Sea Lavender (Limonium latifolium)

Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa)

Smooth Aster (Symphyotrichum laeve)

St. Catherine’s Lace (Eriogonum giganteum)

Stonecrops (Sedum kamtschaticum, S. spurim, S. album)

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Thrift (Armeria maritima)

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Wild Strawberry (Fragaria virginiana)

Willow (Salix Spp.)

Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis)

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yellow Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata)

Yellow Giant Hyssop (Agastache nepetoides)

Trees and Shrubs

Burning Bush (Euonymous)

California Lilac (Ceanothus)

Golden Bells (Forsythia)

Heather (Calluna)

Maples (Acer sp)


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