Beneficial Biological Tools
As the “biological tool” in your integrated pest management toolkit, you can keep unwanted pests in control without the use of pesticides by attracting beneficial insects, birds and other creatures to your yard. These beneficial creatures have an added benefit; they can entertain and educate your family.
To help control pests, encourage the following to live in your yard:
- Bees and butterflies pollinate plants.
- Ladybug larvae (also known as ladybird beetles) feed on aphids.
- Spiders, non-stinging wasps, lacewings, dragonflies, and ground beetles eat insect larvae or adult pests.
- Beneficial animals, such as birds, toads, frogs, and garter snakes, will eat thousands of insects in your during a single season.
If you use chemical pesticides, you will kill both the beneficial insects along with the pest you want to control. The City of Edmonton's Backyard Beneficial Insect Guide can help you identify and encourage beneficial insects to your yard.
Create a micro-habitat
Save yard work and reduce mowing by turning a corner of your yard into a “micro-habitat” to attract beneficial insects and animals:
- Shelter Plant windbreaks around the perimeter of your yard to shield the area from winds, rain, snow and hail. The dense branches of evergreen trees provide excellent protection for birds to nest. Vines such as Virginia creeper also provide shelter for many insects and animals.
- Security Keep dogs and cats away from your micro-habitat. Provide bird houses and nesting shelves that create a safe and convenient place for birds to nest. You can design and build your bird house to attract certain species of birds; otherwise house sparrows will likely use your bird house to nest.
- Food Provide very little - if any - food in your feeders over the summer. Birds will not eat harmful insects if other food is available. The best source for food in your micro-habitat should come from trees and plants that provide seeds and fruits such as Crabapple, Russian Olive, Highbush Cranberry, Chokecherry, Honeysuckle, Cotoneaster, Sunflower, Raspberries, and Juniper. Attractive wildflowers and grasses also supply seeds.
- Water Animals and beneficial insects are attracted to water for drinking and bathing. Birdbaths should be shallow (depth no higher than 9 cm) with gently sloping sides. Avoid metal, plastic or fibreglass birdbaths since it is hard for birds to grip the slippery sides. Change water on a regular basis to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.