Blog / Beneficial Insects

Why should I use an insect house?

Why should I use an insect house?

Some home gardeners are quick to panic at the site of a garden buzzing with bugs, but insects like pollinators and pest-eaters are in fact a sign of healthy plant activity and should be encouraged rather than eliminated. One of the easiest ways to attract beneficial insects to your garden and landscape is to install an insect house nearby.

An insect house is an artificial nesting structure that provides shelter for beneficial insects like solitary pollinators and predatory insects. The houses can be made up of several different types of materials and chambers like hollow tubes, pre-drilled wood blocks, shutter chambers or screen chambers. Solitary bees will create nests and lay their eggs in readymade cavities or soft wood that can be excavated like hollow bamboo shoots. Adult lacewings will find shelter in the mesh covered chambers or the shutter chamber and adult lady bugs will seek out a warm, comfortable spot like the shutter chambers in these houses to hibernate in during the winter months.

Insect house features:

bamboo tubes, wood blocks, screen chamber, shutter chamber

 

Attract these beneficial insects:

mason bee, leaf cutter bee, lacewings, ladybugs

 

Now that you know a little more about how insect houses are used, here are a few more reasons why you should consider installing one in your yard!

Improve garden performance

Power pollinators like leaf cutter bees and mason bees are capable of pollinating 10-20 times more flowers than a honeybee! These gentle helper bees are very docile and will only sting when trapped or pinched, so you don’t need to worry about bringing harmful, aggressive insects near your home. Attracting solitary pollinators to your garden and landscape will help your plants reach their full potential!

Predatory insects like lacewings and lady bugs keep your yard and garden healthy by feeding on harmful insect pests such as aphids, thrips, spider mites (especially red spider mites), whitefly, and other soft-bodied insects. The adult female lacewing lays roughly 300 eggs, and each developing larva can eat up to 10,000 insect pests in its lifetime! Both adult lady bugs and larva consume aphids and other pests to help keep your plants healthy.

beneficial insect house

Chemical-free pest management

No gardener wants to see unwanted pests make a negative impact on their plants. But before reaching for the pesticides, try using an insect house to introduce beneficial predatory insects to your garden to help control the pest population. Insect houses are a great natural option in integrated pest management, a process used to control pest populations while minimizing the impacts on people and the surrounding environment.

Support the native bee population

You may have heard about the sharp decline in the honeybee population, but in the last 100 years, 50% of Midwestern native bee species have disappeared from their habitats. Most wild plants and many of the crops we consume are dependent on insect pollination, meaning native bees are an essential part of our ecosystems that we should take steps to protect. Homeowners can do their part by using a beneficial insect house to provide a safe environment for pollinator reproduction.

To learn more about how you can support pollinators, visit pollinator.org.

Learning opportunity

Help children learn about the benefits of gentle native bees and power pollinators as you monitor their activity together with an insect house! Help identify insect activity by observing the materials they use and studying their behavior as they inhabit the house.

mudded tubes of an insect house mason bee using insect house

(Left) Mudded tubes indicate insect activity

(Right) Mason bee packing mud to seal egg inside tube

Plus, it's fun!

Being an insect house owner can be both a fun and rewarding experience as you watch them take up residence in the house! You can take pride in knowing that you’re helping to support the pollinator population while improving the health and performance of your plants at the same time.

 

Nature’s Way Better Gardens beneficial insect and bee houses come in many attractive styles and configurations. Find the right one for your yard and become an insect house owner this season!

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Nature's Way Bird Products Partners with Insight Citizen Science

Nature's Way Bird Products Partners with Insight Citizen Science

Get the most out of your Beneficial Insect House using the Insight Citizen Science app!

Nature’s Way Bird Products is the first manufacturer to partner with Insight Citizen Science to allow customers to use the free app to contribute meaningful scientific data by recording pollinator activity you observe in your Beneficial Insect Houses.

Register your profile under the Natures Way Birds organization umbrella, then use the app to help them identify, record, and share insect sightings as well as follow other citizen scientists to see how their findings compare.

To download for free and begin using the app to help identify and track the pollinators visiting your Beneficial Insect House, visit https://insightcitizenscience.com/ . 

#InsightCitizenScience

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Beneficial Insects

Beneficial Insects

You may have heard some "buzz" lately about beneficial insects, but do you know what insects are included in this category, what they look like, and how to attract them? Attracting beneficial insects to your garden, as well as your landscape, is a great way to increase plant health and productivity naturally without the use of harmful chemicals. Below are a few of, but definitely not all of, the insects that are beneficial to have around.

Solitary Bees

There are over 140 different species of solitary bees across North America. Unlike honeybees, solitary bees live independently and do not have a hive. These small bees are wonderful to have around your landscape and garden. Solitary bees are very docile and will only sting when trapped or pinched. (The male mason bee doesn’t even have a stinger!) These hard-working bees are power pollinators capable of pollinating up to 10 times (Mason bee: pictured right above) and 20 times (Leafcutter bee: pictured left above) the flowers as a honeybee!

In nature, solitary bees prefer to lay their eggs in an array of natural cavities such as hollow stems, woodpecker holes, and even holes made by other insects. Since these bees are unable to excavate their own nesting cavities, they are just as happy to also use materials you can provide for them such as wood blocks with pre-drilled holes, untreated paper straws, or a pre-fabricated insect house like the Better Gardens Bee House. The female bee will travel from flower to flower connecting pollen to pack in the tubular cavities. She then backs into the tunnel and deposits an egg onto the pollen stash, which will serve as the young’s first meal when it hatches. The last step to the process (and where these bees get their name) varies slightly between species. The mason bee gathers mud and use it to build a wall to seal off the egg into its own chamber and keep it safe until it hatches. The leafcutter bee uses small pieces of leaf to seal of the egg chambers.

Tips for attracting solitary bees:

  • Provide them with suitable nesting cavities like any of the Better Gardens Beneficial Insect Houses. Make sure the nest structure is firmly mounted roughly 4-7 feet off the ground where it will receive morning sun (south or east sides are usually best), is protected from the elements.
  • Plant a pollinator friendly habitat. It is best to place a suitable nest structure within 200-300 feet of pollen-rich plants. For a list of native plants for your area, visit http://pollinator.org and enter your zip code.
  • For Mason Bees - make sure that there is a source of mud close to the nest structure.

Ladybugs

Both juvenile ladybugs (pictured left above) and adult ladybug beetles (pictured right above) are great to have around your landscape and garden plants. Both the adult and larval ladybug fall into the “predatory insect” category of beneficial insects and will eat a wide variety of insect pests including aphids, mites, white flies, leaf hoppers, mealy bugs, scale insects, and various other types of soft-bodies insects.

Ladybug eggs, which are yellow and oval shaped and found in clusters, typically hatch within 3-5 days. The hatched larvae will feed voraciously on insect pests for up to 3 weeks before they pupate into adults. The ladybug has a very hardy appetite and is capable of consuming up to 60 aphids per day and as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime! Within a single growing season, there can be as many as 6 generations of ladybugs. In the fall, adult ladybugs hibernate in plant litter and crevices such as the bark of a fallen log. The ladybugs search (often in large groups) for a place to stay protected from cold winter temperatures.

Tips for attracting ladybugs:

  • In addition to insect pests, ladybugs also require a source of pollen for food. Ladybugs are attracted to plants such as fennel, cilantro, dill, caraway, tansy, and other umbrella-shaped flowers.
  • Provide cover, especially in the fall. Leave fallen leaves and any rotting logs lay over winter when possible. You can also provide a man-made habitat like the Better Gardens Deluxe Beneficial Insect House.
  • Provide a constant water source. Fill a shallow dish with a layer of pebbles or small rocks and add water to cover the bottom half of the rocks.
  • Limit the chemicals used in your garden and landscape or practice organic pest control. The majority of these chemicals kill most insects indiscriminately, making it impossible for beneficial insects like ladybugs to live in your garden. They also deplete the insect’s natural food source.
  • Resist the urge to squish bugs and eggs you find in the garden until you can research and be certain that they are not beneficial.

Lacewings

Adult lacewings (pictured right above) have long slender bodies with large delicately veined transparent wings that look somewhat like lace – hence the name. While lacewing adults typically feed on the nectar from plants, juvenile lacewings (pictured left above) are very voracious predators. Nicknamed the “aphid lion” due to their hooked jaw and ferocious appetite, the lacewing larvae will devour any plant pest that it can get between its pincers. These pincers allow the larvae to capture and drain the body fluids of its prey. The adult female lacewing lays roughly 300 eggs, and each developing larva can eat up to 10,000 insect pests in its lifetime – pests such as aphids, thrips, spider mites (especially red spider mites), whitefly, and other soft-bodied insects!

Tips for attracting lacewings:

  • The adult lacewing requires pollen and nectar for food and are attracted to many of the same plants as ladybugs such as fennel, cilantro, dill, caraway, tansy, and other umbrella-shaped flowers.
  • Provide shelter like the Better Gardens Beneficial Insect House for the adult lacewings.
  • Provide a constant water source. Fill a shallow dish with a layer of pebbles or small rocks and add water to cover the bottom half of the rocks.
  • Limit the chemicals used in your garden and landscape or practice organic pest control. The majority of these chemicals kill most insects indiscriminately, making it impossible for beneficial insects like lacewings to live in your garden. They also deplete the larvae’s natural food source.
  • Resist the urge to squish bugs and eggs you find in the garden until you can research and be certain that they are not beneficial.
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