Working with beneficial insects to create a healthy balance

A book about plant pests and diseases may sound decidedly dreary, but Carol Pope has one she recommends for attracting beneficial insects for improved garden health.

Credit: Linda Gilkeson

Those who know me best know I am a hopeless book addict.

In recent years, with innumerable bookshelves crammed to the ceiling, books piled precariously against walls and books stuffed into cupboards and under beds, I have pledged to cut back on book buying.

Nonetheless, sometimes a book comes along that’s so useful one needs no justification to acquire it. In this case, I am thinking of West Coast Gardening: Natural Insect, Weed & Disease Control by B.C.’s own Linda Gilkeson. Finally, an easy-to-use reference where one can identify a problem in the garden and solve it – and while some of the information is specific to Pacific Northwest gardens, most pertains to our entire province.

Ladybeetle Larvae

Close-up of ladybeetle with larvae
A book about plant pests and diseases may sound decidedly dreary, but Gilkeson’s positive perspective – working with nature’s inclination to maintain a healthy balance – makes it a fascinating and heartening read.

Simply growing plants to attract beneficial insects can often solve problems, says Gilkeson, an expert in entomology who has spent the last 15 years promoting ways to manage pests using natural methods.


“Recently at a nursery I came across a rose garden edged with white alyssum – something I have always advocated because so many adult beneficial insects are attracted to alyssum to drink nectar. Once in the rose garden, the females lay eggs among any aphids on the roses, and when the larvae hatch out, they feed on these aphids. I wanted to photograph that rose display and asked the manager for permission; she volunteered that ever since they started planting alyssum around the beds, the roses haven’t had aphids. I was able to show her a couple of hover flies above the alyssum right that minute and explain the connection.”

It only makes good gardening sense to rally the forces of nature on your side, notes Gilkeson, and it’s by far the easiest way to grow healthy ornamentals, roses, lawns, vegetables and fruit.

Additional photos: Elizabeth Cronin & Linda Gilkeson