Using alfalfa as a cover crop between garden plants has resulted not only in improved soil but also in hosting a variety of beneficial critters to control pests.

I love the insects1 in my garden! Each day I am excited to see the growth of the garden and who is playing in it. Last year I experimented with using alfalfa as a cover crop between my plants. Not only did this eliminate space for weeds, improve the soil, provide a wind brake, host a little shade from the Texas sun, but it provided cover for beneficial insects. I am impressed with the results, and continue to use it.

Some of the alfalfa made it through the winter, and some I replanted in early spring. Organic practices, such as abstaining from the use of chemical insecticides, is not always easy. Last year I had an infestation of the dreaded blister beetles and rather than spraying the garden with chemicals, I manually picked out what seemed like billions of these stinkers. If you have ever been hit with blister beetles you know how they can be a test of patience and resolve.

This spring I was really excited when I found a handsome crew of beneficial insects in my garden. The neighbors might have been surprised to see me with a big smile, yelling YES, bugs in the garden!” then doing a little victory dance. Maybe these critters overwintered 2, or maybe they just found the garden, whatever the case, I am grateful for their presence.

Here are some of the stars.

  • A Lady Beetle (Coccinellidae) larva. Fast moving and hard working.

Lady Beetle (Coccinellidae) larva

  • A Lady Beetle (Coccinellidae) pupa. Sessile (immobile) but still working hard, in this case working on becoming an adult.

Lady Beetle (Coccinellidae) pupa

  • An adult Lady Beetle (Coccinellidae).

Lady Beetle (Coccinellidae) adult

  • A spider taking care of a caterpillar pest. There is also another visible lady beetle larva.

Spider finds a meal

  • Here is what looks like a Robber Fly eating a Leafhopper.

A robber fly eating a leafhopper

  • These guys are ambitious. I was cutting the grass when this rather large spider came out to see if I was fit for a meal.

A large and ambitious spider

  • The invertebrates are not alone, I have other helpers too.

A toad at the buffet

I am so happy to have my Beneficial Bug Brigade. I hope they continue to enjoy their stay. :-)

What beneficials do you have?

  1. Arachnids too. 
  2. Coccinellidae adults can do this, and these specimens sure made an early appearance…