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5 Bugs You Want to See on Your Strawberry Plants

Collage with strawberries on a strawberry plant and a bee on a strawberry flower and a ladybug on a strawberry flower

Fruiting plants in the garden like strawberries will naturally attract pests. Some pests want to get to your strawberries before you do, and they could wreak havoc if not controlled. However, completely wiping out any and all bugs from your strawberries plants can be equally detrimental. There are a number of bugs that will not only help pollinate your strawberry plants but will also keep other pests under control without the use of harsh chemicals that could wipe out the beneficial bugs too. These are the 5 bugs you want to see on your strawberry plants. 

1. Ladybugs

ladybug insect on a white strawberry flower with a garden in the background

Ladybugs aren’t just adorable, they’re also great at keeping your strawberry plants safe from a number of pests. Ladybugs are some of the most beneficial insects for your garden due to their “insatiable appetite for aphids”[5], consuming up to 5,000 aphids in a lifetime. They also eat other soft-bodied pests like mites, other insect eggs, and even ants[5]. Aphids, ants, and many other pests can not only devour your crops, but they also commonly spread viruses. In fact, “aphids can transmit dozens of viruses from a diseased plant to healthy in a few seconds”[1]. For this reason, ladybugs are a welcome visitor in your strawberry or any other garden. 

How can you attract ladybugs?

To attract this natural pesticide, it’s important to make your garden hospitable to ladybug life. Ladybugs will need a water source so they can drink up after a nice meal of aphids. Leave out a small shallow water bowl filled with small rocks and water so the bugs have a surface to stand on, or damp paper towels[2]. You should also avoid pesticides, as this can seriously harm beneficial bugs like ladybugs. 

2. Bees

Honey bee drinking from a strawberry plant flower

It’s well known that bees are essential pollinators. But how can that help your self-pollinating strawberry plants? Well, research shows that strawberries aided in pollination by bees are “heavier, redder, and had a longer shelf lie and a more desirable sugar-to-acid ratio than wind- or self-pollinated berries”[4]. Therefore, through the help of bees in pollination, your strawberry crops will improve. Not only that, our relationship with bees is a give and take. Bees are an incredibly fragile population, and any plants we grow to help them pollinate and get the nectar they need to survive is a job well done. 

How can you attract bees?

Bees are naturally attracted to flowering plants, including flowering strawberries. To attract even more bees however you can plant even more bee-friendly plants. Bees love white, blue, yellow, and purple flowers[3], so plant some daisies, iris, sunflowers, or lavender to keep the bees coming around. You should also avoid toxic pesticides, as this can kill vulnerable bee populations. Bees put in a lot of hard work pollinating our gardens, so be sure to leave them a drink as a thank you as well. A shallow dish with small rocks and a bit of water will give your bees a surface to stand on while they drink. 

3. Centipedes

Small brown centipede crawling off of a small leaf on the stem of a plant

While many (myself included) are creeped out by the little buggers, centipedes are actually super beneficial to any garden. Centipedes like ladybugs eat soft-bodied insects and insect larvae. Centipedes can keep leaf-eating pests like slugs, snails, and aphids under control. They can also greatly improve the health of your soil, protecting your strawberry plants from pests, and also providing them with nutrient-rich soil to grow in. 

How can you attract centipedes?

Centipedes enjoy dark, moist environments with plenty of organic matter. Things like rotting logs, organic soil, dead leaves, and stones all act as great centipede homes[6]. Try incorporating one or more of these items near your strawberry plants to encourage centipedes in the area. 

Gardening Tip: The difference between centipedes and millipedes may not sound huge, but misidentifying a millipede for a centipede could mean goodbye to your strawberry plants. Millipedes love eating plants like strawberries, whereas centipedes eat other insects, but they both share the same habitat and are sometimes hard to decipher. The easiest way to protect your garden from hungry hungry millipedes is to distract them from your strawberry plants with a small mound of compost for them to munch on[6]. Place a small pile of compost next to your centipede habitat to keep millipedes away from your strawberries. 

4. Parasitic Wasps

Close up photo of a black parasitic wasp on a leaf

Many wasps are seen purely as a pest, but the parasitic wasp is practically harmless. Parasitic wasps do not bite or sting humans, and they can also control aphids and other leaf-eating pest populations. Parasitic wasps lay their eggs into “the soft bodies of plant-eating pests and the larvae eat their way out of the host”[6]. Quite a gruesome tactic, but it will help keep your strawberry plants safe from being eaten. Parasitic wasps are also natural pollinators, as they eat nectar and pollen. 

How can you attract parasitic wasps?

Parasitic wasps like bees are attracted to flowers, and many plants and herbs. Planting floral herbs like dill and fennel[6] close to your strawberry plants will be sure to attract them. 

5. Minute Pirate Bugs

Minute pirate bugs are small oval-shaped flying insects that are black and white in color. Minute pirate bugs like many of the other bugs in this list are so beneficial because they prey on a number of pests, like aphids, spider mites, lygus bugs, and thrips[6], all of which can devour your strawberry plants if left without a predator. Minute pirate bugs will eat up their prey leaving your strawberry plants unscathed, however, make sure you don’t become the prey yourself! These bugs have a bite way bigger than their size, so steer clear, or wear protective clothing if you spot these bugs in the garden.

How can you attract minute pirate bugs? 

Minute pirate bugs are attracted to pollen, so planting flowering plants in the garden is your best bet. They will be attracted to strawberry blossoms, but your can up the ante by planting even more non-fruiting flowers. 

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Insects are inevitable in any garden but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! Harsh pesticides will kill pests, but they will also kill beneficial insects, like the particularly at-risk bee. There are many insects that will actually protect your strawberry plants from hungry pests while maintaining the ecosystem in your garden without the use of harsh chemicals. So make a nice home for these top 5 beneficial bugs, and watch your strawberry plants thrive naturally! 

 

Article Sources:

  1. Canna. “Aphids: Damage and control
  2. MasterClass. “How to Attract Bees to Your Garden: 14 Plants for Pollinators
  3. MasterClass. “How to Attract Ladybugs to Your Garden
  4. Nature. “Bees are better for strawberries
  5. The Real Dirt Blog. “Ladybugs are Good for Your Garden
  6. Strawberry Plants. “7 Pests You’ll Want in Your Strawberry Garden