How to attract beetles and bugs to your garden

Don’t obsess about luring mammals and birds into your garden - you can get as much pleasure from making it a haven for ‘micro-fauna’.

How to attract beetles and bugs to your garden article spread

Don’t obsess about just luring mammals and birds into your garden - you can get as much pleasure from making it a haven for ‘micro-fauna’.  

The idea of attracting beetles and bugs to your garden might sound like anathema to traditional gardeners who spend their lives fighting the insects that eat their beloved plants.

Fortunately, many are more enlightened today, and rightly so – the diversity of shapes, colours and patterns of common garden beetles and bugs are amazing, and children especially can take great pleasure in finding and identifying them.

There are some 4,000 species of beetle in Britain, many of which can be found in gardens. Despite this, their importance has been ignored in recent years, which wasn’t true in the past when it was reflected in their names as well as in folklore and songs. 

Furthermore, terms such as click beetles, sexton beetles, glow-worms and devil’s coach horse all reflect a familiarity with their lifestyles. So, gardening for beetles and bugs can reacquaint you with your cultural past, as well as some great wildlife.

  • Beetles and bugs (by which I mean true bugs, such as shield bugs, froghoppers and aphids) are critical for maintaining ecosystems as pollinators, decomposers and predators. Some beetles even eat slugs and the alien New Zealand flatworm.
  • Many of the decomposers break down rotting vegetation and wood, and sexton beetles eat and bury small animal corpses.
  • Capsid bugs are sap feeders and release a toxic saliva that causes dead brown patches on leaves. Don’t let this worry you: the benefits of beetles and bugs far outweigh any problems they cause, and a wide range of species is a sign of thriving wildlife. Any damage to your plants will not be excessive.
  • The main problems are caused by invasive species, such as the citrus longhorn beetle, which was recently introduced to Cornish gardens – they tend not to have any natural predators, though hard winters do reduce numbers.
  • Gardens can also be important refuges for rare species such as stag beetles, which are common in private gardens in South London. They lay their eggs underground by logs or tree stumps, and the larva spend up to seven years eating the rotting wood.
  • If you are in the right area, partially bury larger logs (10–50cm diameter) of hardwoods such as oak, beech, sycamore or ash in shadier parts of your garden. Even if you don’t get stag beetles, the diversity of other species you attract will repay the effort.
An incredible diversity of native beetles and bugs may be found in gardens – this is just a selection of some that may set up home in yours.
  1. Wasp beetle larvae feed on fallen branches and rotten fences. In early summer, the adults are often seen sunning themselves on plants.
  2. Common green capsids are found on fruit trees and bushes, garden plants and weeds. This is one of several capsid species often found in gardens.
  3. Mint leaf beetles are some of the prettiest leaf beetles in gardens. They’re normally seen on cultivated mint plants, and also on water mint in ponds.
  4. Figwort weevils are among the more distinctive weevils and are found on figworts, mulleins, and occasionally other plants. Their larvae resemble slugs.
  5. Wasp beetle larvae feed on fallen branches and rotten fences. In early summer, the adults are often seen sunning themselves on plants.
  6. Hawthorn shieldbugs are very attractive insects, but they can be difficult to spot among hawthorn berries. Also found on other garden bushes.
  7. Common red soldier beetles are sometimes called bloodsuckers. They’re found on umbellifers and thistles, and eat other, smaller insects.
  8. Common malachite beetles are found on a range of garden plants, feeding on nectar, pollen and aphids. Their bright colours indicate that they’re poisonous.
  9. Common sun beetles range in colour from coppery-green to black and their antennae have orange bases. If disturbed, they emit a foul-smelling fluid.
  10. Rove beetles are common in compost heaps, leaf litter and under stones. In early summer, they can sometimes be spotted basking on garden plants.
  11. Oak bush-crickets are common in the south. The nymphs can be found on many garden plants; adults survive well into the autumn.
  • Even if your plants are damaged by species such as lily beetles, don’t use insecticides. Removing beetles by hand can be just as effective and avoids killing beneficial species at the same time. After the first disturbance, lily beetles will drop to the ground, so spread some newspaper under the plants before you attempt to catch them.
  • It is essential to provide places for bugs to overwinter. You can buy expensive ‘bug houses’, but providing natural shelter in the form of open compost heaps, stick piles and mounds of stones, and leaving dead stems on plants, is more efficient and cheaper.
  • If you do not have room for piles of leaves in your garden, create temporary ones in winter at the back of your flowerbeds using tubes made out of chicken wire. These take up little space, are not intrusive and provide ideal sites for beetles and bugs to overwinter. Remove the wire in spring once the leaves have rotted down.
  • Plants with flat flowerheads are good for a range of beetles and bugs, so plant candytuft, fennel, yarrow, wild marjoram, field scabious and compositae such as oxeye daisies and ornamental thistles to provide a range of flowers throughout the year. Be sure to put them in sunny spots.
  • Trees and mature vegetation enhance the diversity of beetles and bugs in your garden by providing feeding sites in the summer and places to overwinter.


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