Refuges and Habitat for Beneficial Insects

Wildflower Seed Mixes Attract Beneficials


Line up showing difference in volume for an ounce each of seven seed mixes.
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

Fennel flowers with dill seed heads in background.
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!




Seed Mixes



Beneficial Blend Seed Mix

Twenty Diverse Plant Species that Bloom Sequentially

Tolerates and Improves Most Soil Types


Beneficial Blend growing at Rincon-Vitova.
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 rainy season.


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.




Insect-Flora Standard seeds

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 growing mixes.


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.


Insecta-Flora Standard

A strip planted with Insecta-Flora Standard.
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® clover.


Insecta-Flora Low
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 seeds

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 nitrogen-fixing nodulation.




Interflora seeds

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, white yarrow.




Road Show seeds

Road Show


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 fescue.




Perennial Hedgerow South seeds

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


Everett 'Deke' Dietrick in a field planted with alfalfa-medic 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).