Larger wildflower plantings increase natural enemy density, diversity, and biological control of sentinel prey, without increasing herbivore density


Brett R. Blaauw, Department of Entomology, 202 Center for Integrated Plant Systems, 578 Wilson Road, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. An important means of conserving beneficial insects in resource-limited habitats is to meet their ecological requirements, which may be achieved by providing areas containing flowering plants that bloom throughout the season, but little is known about the importance of wildflower plot size for supporting natural enemies or the biological control they provide.

2. Wildflowers were established in plots of sizes ranging from 1 to 100 m2, and found that natural enemy density, group richness, and diversity of natural enemy groups increased with plot size.

3. The density of insect herbivores was lower in all flower plots than in the control samples, whereas the diversity of herbivore groups was significantly higher in flower plots.

4. Comparing population growth of sentinel soybean aphids (Aphis glycines Matsumura) among plot sizes, aphid colonies were smaller as plot size increased.

5. Providing beneficial insects with flowering resources resulted in significantly more natural enemies and greater pest control than in smaller flower plots or mown grass areas.

6. These results indicate that the density, diversity, and function of natural enemies are sensitive to the size of wildflower plantings, even at relatively small scales. Therefore, larger wildflower plots are more suitable for the conservation of beneficial insects and their provision of natural pest control.