Not only are they cute, but ladybugs are counted as the number one beneficial insect in the garden.
They help with biological control of aphids and other garden pests. A welcome sight in any garden, their presence is an obvious indicator of its organic status.
Welcome them into your garden for pest control, and say goodbye to chemical pesticides.
HOW LADYBUGS HELP THE GARDEN
Except for a few herbivorous species that are known to cause damage to crops such as maize, spinach, and soybeans, ladybugs are generally harmless, feeding on small insects that infest the garden plants.
Aphids are their favorite meal, and that is what makes them beneficial to gardeners. These soft-bodied bugs suck the plant juices, especially from the tenderest parts of the plant such as the growing tips and developing buds, stunting growth and affecting fruit set.
Ladybugs are voracious feeders, gobbling up 40-50 aphids a day. A single adult bug probably eats about 5,000 insects and insect larvae in its lifetime. Each female produces around 1,000 eggs a season, which it lays close to food sources in batches of 10’s, 50’s, or even 100’s at a time.
HOW TO ATTRACT LADYBUGS TO YOUR GARDEN
The pest control potential of ladybugs makes them an asset in any garden. They are found almost all over the country in small and large numbers; however, they come and stay in your garden only if the conditions are right.
The following measures may help attract them into your garden and entice them to make it their home.
1. AVOID CHEMICAL SPRAYING
Ladybug beetles are not unduly affected by mild insecticides, but they may want to stay clear of sprayed areas as a matter of preference. If you stop all chemical control measures, including herbicides and organic pesticides, for at least 5-6 weeks, you might find some coming into your garden on their own.
This is more probable in spring when they come out of their hibernation looking for new feeding grounds.
2. PLANT SOME APHID-PRONE PLANTS
Roses are well known for being aphid-prone. Nasturtium and pot marigold are two other ornamentals that are prone to heavy infestation.
In the vegetable garden, cabbage, lettuce, radish, tomatoes and potatoes attract aphids; so do fruit trees. Plant some of these in your garden to provide a ready source of food for the ladybugs.
3. PLANT SUITABLE POLLEN AND NECTAR PLANTS
The beneficial ladybugs may be carnivorous, but they do like to have some pollen and nectar too, especially during their growth phase.
Flowers of the Umbelliferae family of plants seem to be ladybug magnets. They include dill, fennel, wild carrot, caraway and cilantro. The Aster family plants tansy and yarrow with their flat flower heads packed with tiny flowers full of pollen also seem to attract these beetles.
HOW TO BUY & RELEASE LADYBUGS IN THE GARDEN
Buying ladybugs is an inexpensive option for gardeners. While it is possible to breed ladybugs in bug farms, they often fail to follow the natural feeding patterns when released into the garden.
As soon as you receive the beetles, spray a little water into the bags and put them in the refrigerator. This helps to relieve the dehydration and overexcitement caused during shipping. The cool environment helps them to settle down as it gives a false sense of hibernation.
Ladybugs can be kept refrigerated for up to 3 months. They may become so inactive that it may seem as if they have perished. Some loss is to be expected, but most of them quickly recover on being introduced into the garden.
As in the case of attracting local populations, you should make sure that there are at least a few aphid-infested plants to release the ladybugs into. It is a good idea to water down the plants, knocking down some aphids from their perch, so that they can feed them on the ground. They appreciate the extra moisture too.
Late evening and early dawn are the best times to release ladybugs. The darkness and the cool temperature may keep them from flying away as soon as they are released.
On the other hand, sunlight prompts them to take flight immediately. If you release them in the evening, it gives them a whole night to settle down.
LADYBUGS ARE A GARDENERS BEST FRIEND
Once you see the work that these little beetles can do, you will be amazed and want to make the conditions just right in your garden to keep them around for a very long time!
By Susan Patterson for How To Attract Thousands Of Ladybugs To Your Garden & Keep Them There (naturallivingideas.com)