They're not all pests; having a vibrant insect community is key to a
Nature is filled with ³good bugs,² crawling and flying creatures that
eat garden pests. The good bugs ‹ a ladybug being an example ‹ and the
plants they like for shelter and food can be seen at Benziger Winery¹s
demonstration insectary garden.
By MEG McCONAHEY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Published: Friday, July 10, 2009 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 4:17 p.m.
As any public works director knows, the health and functionality of a
city depends on good planning and infrastructure.
LURING THE GOOD BUGS
Some Plants in Benziger Insectary that Attract Predator (Good) Bugs
Moonshine Yarrow ‹ Achillea millefolium
Blue Catmint ‹ Nepeta
Prairie Coneflower ‹ Ratibida pinnata
Russian Sage ‹ Petrovskia
Blackeyed Susan, Gloriosa Daisy ‹ Rudbeckia
Purple Coneflower ‹ Echinacea purpurea
Monch ‹ Aster rikartii
Queen Anne¹s Lace ‹ Daucus carota
Dandelion ‹ Taraxacum
Santa Barbara Daisy (AKA Mexican Daisy)‹ Erigeron karvinskianus
Western predatory mites
Red predatory mites
Hoverflies (AKA syrphid fly)
Western flower thrip
And so it is with a healthy garden. When deciding what to plant and
where, think like a city planner. You don¹t want only awe-inspiring
architecture, parks and candy stores.
Who will inhabit your garden? What kind of residents do you want to
attract to your new community? If you answered bugs, bees, bats,
butterflies and birds, you¹re on the right track. And just as you would
in a real city, you¹ll need to provide the equivalent of housing
developments for shelter, supermarkets for healthy eating and reservoirs
of water for drinking and cleaning. And don¹t forget, any safe city
needs strong law enforcement.
There are more than 50 types of plants in the insectaries, represented
by three main families of plants: sunflowers, carrots and legumes. All
provide both food and shelter for the insects the winery needs to
provide the right balance of predator and prey.
A gently winding path leads through a forest of tall and densely packed
plants and grasses. Moonshine yarrow, Russian sage, euphorbia, and
gracefully waving stalks of Miscanthus (ornamental grasses) beckon
beneficial critters like ladybugs, assassin bugs, lacewings, syrphid
flies, minute pirate bugs and parasitic wasps, said Colby Eierman, the
former director of the gardens at Copia who has overseen Benziger¹s
insectaries for the past 18 months.
These predators in turn, will go after the vineyard pests.
For instance, the short-bodied green lacewings will eat aphids, said
Eierman, who grew up not far away on Sonoma Mountain and has a degree in
landscape architecture from the University of Oregon. But they also will
dine on white flies, thrips and mites, all destructive to grapevines.
Good bugs also are soldier beetles, Western predatory mites and red
These beneficial insects will go after glassy-winged sharpshooters, the
western flower thrip, black aphids, white flies and leaf hoppers.
³All of these guys for the most part are taking nutrients away from the
plants. They¹re a lot of sucking insects,² Eierman said. Consider
aphids. They gather on the underside of leaves ³and suck the nutrients
right out of the veins of the plant like a vampire,² he added.
Certain plants do attract specific beneficials. So when planning any
organic garden, you want to know what pests the plants you choose might
draw, and then select other plants that will attract the right predators.
For instance, Queen Anne¹s Lace attracts lacewings. Dandelions draw
ladybugs. Hoverflies dine on Gloriosa daisies.
The whole concept is built on the premise put forth in the concept, ³If
you build it, they will come.² That means, said Eierman, creating many
well-planned communities of insect-friendly plants connected by
corridors or ³bug highways² of additional plants that enable the bugs to
get around easily with places to alight.
³You build these threads of habitat for those insects to get out into
the vineyard because they don¹t travel as far as you¹d like them to,² he
explained. ³You have to think about the vineyard a little differently
and build that infrastucture so they can get around, like a highway
That same principle can be applied in any backyard setting. You want not
only to mass plants that attract beneficials, but also to make sure that
that these habitats are spread throughout your landscape and near any
plants that might be prone to pests.
Benziger has been committed to what is called Integrated Pest Management
for more than 20 years. Over time they have developed a number of
insectary gardens throughout their 85 acres, including a terraced
vineyard of zinfandel along which are planted a mixture of olives,
lavender, echium, bottle brush and flowering plants like calendula and
California poppies ‹ all attractive to beneficials.
³We have quite a diverse mix of non-grapevine plants throughout the
vineyards. It¹s a real blending of nature,² said Eierman, stressing that
only half the estate is planted in vines.
The beauty of their insectary gardens is their wildness. They don¹t look
planned. Every inch is covered with what appears to be a disparate array
of shrubs and grasses that flower at different times. Although it may
look unplanned, it is not.
Angelica attracts the predatory chalsid wasp. Tansy, a bright green
ornamental herb with feathery leaves and yellow flowers, attracts
lacewings. Minute pirate bugs like the asters. And one of the staples ‹
a big truck stop, if you will, on the insect flyway ‹ is yarrow. The big
umbrella-like flowers are like a welcoming landing pad, Eierman said,
and are a particular favorite of hoverflies.
³They¹re really easy for the bugs to see and find. It¹s like a neon sign
with an arrow pointing, ŒFOOD,¹² he said.
There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who
Click to see the full signature.