Organic farms provide habitat for many beneficial organisms, including pollinators and insects that prey upon or parasitize pests. In this article, we focus on creating insectaries – strips of plants that support beneficial insects. The subject is currently being studied by Organic Science Cluster researchers.
You can leave weeds or strips of insectary plants along the edges of the fields. The smaller the field, the more effective this is. In some cases, the perimeter may include trees and bushes. You can also have strips of insectary plants throughout a field. Beneficials can travel along these ‘habitat highways’ and disperse into the fields. Larger and more connected strips provide more benefits than small isolated patches.
- Legumes (e.g., alfalfa, vetch, fava beans, clover)
- Brassicas (e.g., mustard, radish, alyssum)
- Umbellifers (e.g., Queen Anne’s lace, parsley, wild parsnip, cilantro, dill)
- Aster family (e.g., yarrow, tansy, sunflower, goldenrod, echinacea, coreopsis, cosmos)
Living mulches can be insectary plants. To reduce competition, overseed the living mulch seed after the crop is established. Also, crops can be used. For example, unharvested mustard greens, broccoli side shoots and fava beans flower late into the fall and provide food for pollinators, parasitoids and hoverflies.