Florida native plants support beneficial insect populations, and VISTA proudly has native plant gardens north, south, east and west of our vegetable gardens.
These gardens include members of the Asteraceae (Aster, daisy or sunflower family), Apiaceae (Carrot or parsley family) and Lamiaceae (Mint family) where insect pollinators and predators (in the best sense) forage.
VISTA’s Wildflower Garden includes Symphyotrichum pilosum, sometimes known as “Frost Aster,” it typically blooms in late fall or early winter. Play a game of “I Spy” in the gardens to find a Tachinid Fly on this and other asters and mints. Tachinids are beneficial to growing vegetables!
Photo of Tachinid Fly - Credit: UF/IFAS Entomology Department https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/2014/10/14/flies-that-help-our-garden-grow/
In addition to being pollinators, tachinid flies parasitize beetle larvae (such as Japanese, potato and cucumber beetles), cabbageworms and gypsy moths, sawfly larvae, grasshoppers and other true bugs like squash bugs and plant bugs. Learn More at https://www.flawildflowers.org/know-your-native-pollinators-tachinid-flies/
Unfriendly to our gardens are squash bugs that feed on juices of plant leaves, vines and fruits causing plant wilt and fruit rot. Savvy gardeners welcome the sight of a tachinid fly eggs on any squash bug!
Adult and nymph of squash bugs, Anasa tristis (DeGeer) Credit: John L. Capinera, UF/IFAS
Resist spraying insecticides, so that the tachinid flies, hoverflies, lacewings, lady beetles, syrphid flies, and parasitic wasps live to support your vegetables!
For more information about managing squash bugs, listen to this podcast:
For more information about White oldfield aster (Symphyotrichum pilosum): http://hawthornhillwildflowers.blogspot.com/2012/12/white-oldfield-frost-aster.html