Refuges and Habitat for Beneficial Insects
Wildflower Seed Mixes Attract Beneficials
An ounce each of seven of our seed mixes.
Cultural practices that create beneficial habitat are essential to a successful biological control program. The key to creating a good habitat for the insects is integrating biodiversity into and around your farm or garden. Different kinds of plants attract different kinds of insects, resulting in a biological balance in the garden. Besides height and density of the stand, blends vary in content of perennials vs. annuals (in southern latitudes habitats of annuals last longer in winter cropping systems, perennials provide habitat longer in summer). Because of differences in seed size, the volume of 1 ounce of seed ranges from 2 rounded tablespoons to a rounded half cup.
Create a protective niche for natural predators and parasites by providing host insects, nectar, pollen, water sources, dew, and moist organic litter on soil surface. Consider mulching your plants to improve habitat at the soil level. Dedicate just 1% of your garden or crop area for biocontrol and you will be rewarded.Many biological control organisms require nectar and/or pollen for proper maturation and reproduction. The insects need a habitat in which they can thrive, or many of them will die off or leave the farm or garden. Until natural sources of pollen and nectar mature, beneficials can be drawn in with simulations, like our Insect Food and Predalure, both with optional wintergreen oil scent to attract predators.
We have assembled a line of mixes to meet all needs for habitat plants.
Planting Tips | Types of Support Plants | Floral Architecture and Nectar
TIPS FOR ESTABLISHING HABITAT FROM SEED MIX
Our local seedsman Paul Albright creates most of our blends. He advises to till only if soil is compacted, otherwise just roughen the surface. We’ve learned to sprout weed seeds and hoe before seeding. We seed small areas by hand. Large areas can be seeded by cyclone type seeder, manure spreader or grain drill. Combine the mix with fine sand or vermiculite at a compatible ratio for your seeder for even distribution of large and small seeds. Make close contact between seed and soil by compacting with a cultipacker or drag mat. Once seed is set, mow to scatter for next year. Adding seed can establish a stronger, self-supporting growth. To prevent reseeding in an intercropping system, take down the habitat crop after bloom, before seeds set.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF HABITAT OR SUPPORT PLANTS
Monitor plant - a plant that is more attractive to a pest than the crop plant. Eggplant is more attractive to whitefly than tomato or pepper so you can monitor an acre greenhouse by checking 3 eggplants spread down the aisles of the house. Bush or pole beans are more attractive to spider mite than tomato, pepper, cucumber, or strawberry. Fennel flowers attract thrips, and so on.
Trap crop – a plant or crop more attractive to pest than the commercial crop, which takes the pest damage so the crop is spared. Infested plant can be vacuumed, treated or removed.
Banker plant – a plant that attracts and hosts a pest and is used as an insectary to grow more beneficials. Quick growing cereal grasses like rye can be planted to attract aphids that later become food for aphid predators and parasites.
Monitor/trap/banker plants - beans planted in tomatoes or peppers act as a monitoring plant, and fill up with (or trap) spider mites. Predator mites, such as persimilis, are then released on the bean plants and overwhelm the spider mites. The beans then become banker plants, with predator mites moving into the crop.
Insectary plant – plants that supply pollen, nectar or shelter for beneficials and also may host pests that are food for them.
Borders, interplantings, pest break strips - insectary plants strategically placed for trapping pests and bankering beneficials.
Cover crop – a non-market succession crop with many uses including hosting beneficial insects.
FLORAL ARCHITECTURE AND A GOOD DRINK OF NECTAR
White fennel flowers in front of dill seed heads. Both are umbels.
Not all flowers are created equal when it comes to hosting beneficial insects. Joe Patt, who has PhDs in botany and entomology, looked into flower shape and access to nectar. He compared flowers with open architecture (exposed nectaries) for beneficial insect attraction to those with partially hidden and hidden nectaries. He then studied the umbels (Apiacea, the carrot family), which have open nectaries. Seed dill, var. Bouquet, was a champ at feeding the 3 mm long wasp Edovum puttleri as well as Pediobius. The throngs of beneficials attracted to the dill flowers helped Edovum releases control Colorado potato beetle and aided Pediobius in controlling Mexican bean beetle.
Our habitat mixes include blooms from the carrot, aster, flax, poppy, grass and clover families. You’ll see plenty of white flowers in some mixes since more beneficial insects are seen on them than on blue, red and yellow flowers. Valuable beneficials abound on even very small patches and borders of habitat! Build it and they will come!
Beneficial Blend Seed Mix
Twenty Diverse Plant Species that Bloom Sequentially
Tolerates and Improves Most Soil Types
Beneficial Blend growing in the Rincon-Vitova demonstration trail garden.
Beneficial Blend seed mixture yields a wide
variety of plants known to harbor beneficial
insects. It can also be used to deter weeds or
provide ground cover in unused areas. It is
good for soil building, erosion control and has
excellent drought resistance and tolerance for
non-tillable, compacted, low fertility soils with
high or low pH. Beneficial Blend Mix should
be planted 0.25 – 0.50 inches deep in a good, fine seedbed since
many flower and herb seeds are small. A well established stand
will reseed and can last several years, which will add vigor to the
perennial and biennial plants in the blend. Fall planting is best
in a Mediterranean climate, giving plants time to establish in the
A light planting rate of 10 lb per acre will establish 2-4 plants of each species per square foot. In orchards and vineyards, only one row of the Blend out of every 8-10 rows is needed.
Contains: alfalfa (non-GMO), baby blue eyes, baby’s breath, barley, berseem
clover, bishop’s flower, buckwheat, carrot, celery, cereal ryegrass, coriander,
subclover, common vetch, crimson clover, fennel, mustard, sweet alyssum,
tidy tips, white yarrow, yellow blossom sweet clover. Small legume seeds are
inoculated to assure effective nitrogen-fixing nodulation.
Insecta-Flora Seed Mixes
Insecta-Flora mixes have flowers that bloom at different times
throughout the year and include open flower structures that allow
large and small insects to get nectar. Insecta-Flora also provides
habitat for birds. Some flowers have lots of pollen, some will
tolerate shade, and some will take mowing. Avoid planting mixes
too heavily as the faster growing plants will overwhelm the slower
growing plants resulting in lower diversity. Fall planting is best in a
Mediterranean climate, giving plants time to establish in the rainy
season. If planted in the spring, water to get established. In dryer
areas, water several times in summer. To maintain an established
habitat, if mowing is needed, mow half an area one month and
the other half about a month later. Available in standard and low
Plant Insecta-Flora mixes 11 lb per acre -or- 1 lb per 4,000 sq ft -or- 1 oz
per 250 sq ft -or- 1 g per 9 sq ft. To keep the stand for several years in a
permanent bed, let the flowers set seed before mowing.
A strip planted with Insecta-Flora Standard.
Insecta-Flora Mix Standard, now with
Gopher Stopper® sour clover, will provide
beautiful flowers that attract, feed, and
protect beneficial insects. Because it largely
contains attractive flowers that re-seed
themselves, it is expensive compared to
many cover crop and “bug-blend” mixes.
However, averaged over 4 to 5 years the cost is quite reasonable. The
Standard mix has low and medium height plants (up to 3 ft tall). To
add more height and diversity to the floral architecture, add some
tansy phacelia and cosmos to the mixture.
Contains alyssum, arroyo lupine, baby’s breath, bachelor’s buttons, birdsfoot
trefoil, blue flax, calendula, California poppy, Chinese houses, crimson clover,
goldfields, Persian clover, Johnny jump-up, yarrow and Gopher Stopper®
Insecta-Flora Mix Low grows about one foot tall and is great for under trees, row
ends, or a meadow of flowers. Along with attracting, feeding and protecting
beneficials, it also serves well for nitrogen fixing and erosion control.
Contains African daisy, alyssum, anis, bird’s foot trefoil, calendula, dwarf
goldfields, English daisy, five spot (buffalo eyes), foxtail fescue (Zorro), Hykon
rose clover, snow-in-summer, subterranean clover, and Johnny jump-up.
Low Profile Habitat Seed Mix
Low Profile Habitat Seed Mix includes
low growing plants and could serve for an
orchard floor or erosion control. Contains
a beautiful mix of cold tolerant reseeding
annuals, broadleaf trefoil, and clovers. Nitro
Persian clover grows densely to 2 feet with a
long duration of attractive blooms. Red and crimson clover grow
18 inches high. White Dutch clover grows 6-10 inches high with a
low tolerance for heat and sun. Red clover is especially attractive
to beneficial insects. Broadleaf trefoil is both long-lived and
tolerant of poor soils. Subclovers bury their seed heads in the soil,
surviving in orchards and vineyards with drip or no irrigation. The
two fescues in the mix, creeping red and Eureka hard, are shade
tolerant, spread, and are low-maintenance.
Contains: Clovers (31% - white Dutch, red, crimson, Nitro Persian), subclovers
(27% - Campeda, Antas, Clare), broadleaf trefoil (26%), fescues (10% -
creeping red fescue, Eureka hard fescue), alyssum, bachelor’s buttons (dwarf
polka), baby’s breath, California poppy, Chinese forget-me-not, wallflower,
white yarrow. All small legume seeds are inoculated to assure effective
Interflora Seed Mix
Specially designed for interplanting in
annual vegetable crops. This mixture
of grasses, clovers, herbs, and flowers
attractbeneficial insects to help with
biological control of pest insects. For row
crop vegetables this can be planted in
every 7th to 10th row. For bedded vegetables this can be planted
every 10th to 20th bed, depending on need for support for a
biological program. For established organic farms 1% of the crop
area is sufficient for supporting biological control, whereas for
transitional farms investing 5% of the crop area in habitat may be
needed to get good pest control. Mow to six inches to clean up or
use a weed whip or weed eater to reduce height as needed.
Contains: alyssum, baby’s breath, bachelor’s buttons, berseem clover,
buckwheat, calendula, crimson clover, phacelia, blue flax, creeping red fescue,
Prima gland clover, ryegrass (dwarf perennial), subterranean clover (Nungarin
and Denmark), Frontier balansa clover, Cefalu arrowleaf clover, wallflower,
Low growing seed mix to plant in roads,
box row, edge row, or lawn. Stands low
to moderate traffic, reduces dust, helps
beneficials. Cover drive roads through fields
to reduce dust and erosion, as well as provide
habitat for beneficial insects to aid biocontrol
in neighboring fields. Can also be used as a low water use lawn
substitute. Mix should perform well in all of continental USA with
sufficient rain or irrigation, except the southeast. Mowed in spring,
straw will help reduce dust in summer. Road Show will reduce
erosion from seasonal rain. Manage as you would sports turf with
aeration on drive roads. To increase diversity, mix with a grass that is adapted to your climate and soil type. Other good choices to increase flower variety in the mix: manzanita (Acrotostaphylos edmundsonii ssp. parvifolium), beach evening primrose (Camissonia cheiranthifolia), Point Reyes Ceanothus (Ceanothus gloriosus - tolerates light traffic), wallflower (Erysimum menziesii ssp. concinnum - mat forming), mountain pennyroyal (Monardella odoratissima), pennyroyal, saltillo evening primrose (Oenothera stubbei).
Prepare scratched surface with average particle size in the ½ to 1 inch range. Broadcasting seed will burry about ¼ inch. Moisten for germination. Water through season to maintain bloom.
Contains: white yarrow, birdsfoot trefoil, strawberry clover, woolly plantain,
chamomile, sweet alyssum, Johnny-jump-up, hard fescue, Idaho fescue, zorro
Perennial Hedgerow Seed Mixes
These native plant blends are made up of shrubs and small trees and are designed to be used as long term hedgerows. Hedgerows can prevent erosion, provide shade, and protect crops from strong winds and blowing dust. The plants in both of these mixes were carefully chosen by Paul Albright of Albright Seed Company to attract and shelter beneficial insects.
To plant, prepare soil, broadcast seed, trample, and water in. For the first year or two, water during summer or dry periods and weed to decrease competition. Prune trees and shrubs as needed to fit into the landscape and maintain tree health. After well established these plants should be able to take care of themselves.
Consider adding arroyo or sandbar willow, pepper tree, castor bean, Ceanothus, Lotus scoparinus, or tamarind. Plant some of your favorite wildflowers on the edge of the hedgerow. A parallel strip of annual insect habitat plants can give short term help with biological control until the shrubs grow.
SEED RATE: 26 lbs. per acre, or about 5 oz (4.78 oz) for 5 X 100 foot strip
EMERGENCE: 10-15 days
ESTABLISHMENT: 120 days after emergence
for Northern California
Native mixture for Northern
California. Easy to grow for most
areas in Northern California.
Produces shrubs and small tree
foliage, like toyon shown, which
attract and support beneficial insects
to manage aphids, caterpillars, mites,
thrips, and whitefly. Emerges in
10-15 days, and plants will establish
120 days after emergence. A parallel
strip of annual insect habitat plants can give short-term help with
biological control until the shrubs grow.
Contains: acacia, white sage, purple sage, fourwing saltbush, deerweed,
brittle brush, ashleaf buckwheat, flat-top buckwheat, toyon, Christmas berry,
lemonade berry, giant wildrye, elderberry.
for Southern California
Native mix for Southern California. Easy to
grow for most areas in Southern California.
Produces shrubs and small trees which
attract and support beneficial insects to
manage aphids, caterpillars, mites, thrips,
and whitefly. Emergence is in 10-15 days,
and plants will establish 120 days after emergence. A parallel
strip of annual insect habitat plants can give short-term help with
biological control until the shrubs grow.
Contains: white yarrow, brewer saltbush, chaparral broom, brittle brush, flattop
buckwheat, toyon, Christmas berry, bladderpod, giant wildrye, elderberry.
Alfalfa-Medic Seed Mix
Our founder "Deke" Dietrick hunting for beneficials in an alfalfa-medic field.
Alfalfa hay is a habitat of all
the beneficial insects serving
an agricultural landscape and,
along with the medics for weed
smothering, this mix also traps lygus
bugs near strawberries and cotton. A
summer dryland green manure cover
crop, the medics are done in August, and the alfalfa can be turned
under in fall or early spring fixing up to 200 pounds of nitrogen
per acre. In lower latitudes it can also be nursed by planting with
or after winter grains, rye, oats or barley. Can be aerial seeded in
the fall, drilled or broadcast at harvest yielding a 6-16 inch tall
cover or self-regenerating mulch for orchard and vineyard middles
and interplantings in drip irrigated row crops. Alternate mowing
preserves a stable habitat for natural enemies.
Contains: Medicago sp. non-dormant alfalfa and Trifolium spp. (jester barrel
medic, Santiago burr medic and snail medic).