Creating a beautiful garden filled with indigenous plants can help you attract more beneficial animals to your garden such as predators (praying mantis), pollinators (butterflies), and decomposers (earthworms).
These animals help maintain the natural balance in your garden and attract larger animals such as lizards, birds, and bats that prey on them. Creating a diverse environment rich in wildlife and healthy plants.
South Africa boasts an impressive number of species:
Butterflies – 650
Praying mantis – 186
Earthworms – 300
Having predators such as praying mantis in your garden will ensure that the bugs that snack on your plants are kept at a manageable level. Praying mantis are ambush predators and feed on aphids, crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, stink bugs, cockroaches, flies, and moths.
Praying mantis are preyed on by frogs, lizards, birds, and bats. However, they are extremely efficient hunters and great at avoiding becoming prey:
Reaction time is twice as fast as a housefly, and they can jump at least a couple of body lengths away in as little as one-tenth of a second. Both attributes are excellent for catching prey and avoiding becoming prey.
Able to camouflage based on their surroundings and change their colour slightly. They are cryptic and mimic leaves, flowers, grasses, and bark that blend in with their body colour.
Ambush predators and sit and wait for unsuspecting prey.
Their heads can rotate 180 degrees in either direction, they have an excellent field of vision (Seeing almost everything)!
Unique hearing organ at the base of their legs that allows them to detect bat calls and therefore evade them.
While waiting for its next meal a mantis holds its front “arms” up – making it look as though its praying, hence the name.
Butterflies are extremely essential pollinators and unfortunately, their numbers worldwide are in decline due to climate change, habitat loss and the use of insecticides. They are attracted to bright flowers as the sugar-rich nectar provides energy. As they move from one flower to another, they collect pollen which they then deposit onto the next flower they land on. Their behaviour results in the pollination of many fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Butterflies are unique and taste using their feet. They suck up delicious nectar using a long straw-like apparatus called a proboscis.
Having insects in our gardens that pollinate flowers and control pests is essential for a healthy garden. However, decomposers are doing extremely important work in the soil that has a positive impact on the growth and vibrance of garden plants.
There are three types of earthworms:
Please note that Red Wigglers will not thrive in your garden, they live in organic matter (leaves, decaying fruits, vegetables, and manure) and not garden soil.
Burrowing through the soil requires an enormous amount of pressure and strength. Earthworms can push 10 times their own body weight. That’s the equivalent to a human pushing a polar bear.
Benefits to soil:
Earthworms cause positive physical, chemical, and biological changes to the soil.
Recycle organic plant matter into compost – a nutrient-rich matter
Move organic matter from the top layers of soil into the deeper layers where they are easily accessible to plants root systems.
Aerate the soil.
How to attract these beneficial animals
Avoid using pesticides as insects are very sensitive to them. Let praying mantis take care of the small critters. It may take a little while for nature to create a balance between pests and beneficial insects but give your garden some time to create a balance between prey and predator.
Plant indigenous South African plants with long flowering periods as well as fruits and vegetables as these are praying mantis and butterflies first choice.
Butterflies love plants with blue to mauve, red or pink, and to a lesser extent a white colour.
Smaller shrubs and ground cover: Daises, Impatiens (shade loving plant), Marigolds, Salvia and Lavender varieties, Cape leadwort, Butterfly bush, and Asparagus ferns.
Larger trees include Acacia species, Wild Plum and Peach, Dogwood, and Cork Bush.
Avoid using chemical fertilizers as these create unfavourable acidic soils for earthworms.
Vermicompost can be added to your garden to ensure that it remains rich in nutrients. Vermicompost has very limited nutrient leaching compared to chemical fertilisers – therefore your soil will remain nutrient-rich for longer.
If you would like to make your garden more luscious in the most natural way. To attract important predators and pollinators, purchase your very own organic vermicompost. Earthworm and plant friendly!
Written by Sarah Oxley