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Insectary Plants to Enhance Beneficial Insects

Most beneficial insects (predators, parasitoids, and pollinators) require regular access to pollen and nectar to enhance longevity, reproduction, and fuel their pest control and pollination activities. However, agricultural landscapes in many parts of the North-Central Region no longer contain a reliable diversity of floral resources. In previous NC SARE-funded research we screened native plants for their ability to act as “insectary plants” i.e. to attract and support natural enemies and pollinators. Most of the plants we previously screened are best suited for soils with good water holding capacity. Our current project seeks to identify insectary plants that thrive on more drought prone soils (sandy loams to sands) typical of many fruit and vegetable production systems. 

Working with native plant producers and beekeepers, we identified species of flowering plants adapted for growth on dry soils in Michigan and planted seedlings in replicated common gardens on three MSU research centers: Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center (Berrien Co.), Clarksville Research Center (Ionia Co.) and the Northwest Michigan Horticultural Research Center (Leelanau Co.). Plants are sampled weekly during the growing season to determine their flowering period and attractiveness to pollinators, natural enemies and crop pests.

Preliminary results from 2015:

Of the 55 species planted in 2014, most survived to spring 2015 (see reverse for list). Some potentially interesting species like lupine, fireweed, and queendevil, did not establish at all sites.

Of the early-booming species; lance-leaf coreopsis, round-leaved ragwort and hairy penstemon appear particularly attractive to pollinators, while yarrow is highly visited by predaceous hover fly adults.

Common milkweed is attracting a variety of predaceous lady beetles.  In addition, monarch butterfly larvae have been observed on common milkweed at two sites.

verbena and swallowtail

measurement of plant

field day at CRC


Dr. Landis and Dan weeding plots

coreopsis and bee

dan vacuuming

mint and honeybee