Ladybugs for natural pest control
Thursday, July 4, 2019 at 9:25 PM
Gardeners love ladybugs because ladybugs love to eat aphids, mites, scale, whitefly and mealybugs. A single ladybug may eat as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime. Instead of spraying the aphids that have already started to appear on our perennials and rosebushes with chemicals, why not try to keep them in check with nature’s number one aphid predator.
Our ladybugs are available in sealed, recyclable plastic containers this year. After you get your ladybugs home from the greenhouse, leave the container sealed and place it in a refrigerator, or other cool place. This calms ladybugs down from their traveling experience to your house especially if the temperatures are high outside. Turning on the air conditioning in the car and getting them home as quickly as possible is also recommended.
Once they've calmed down you can start thinking about letting them go. Ladybugs don't fly at night so early evening is the best time to release them giving them all night to settle in, and find food and water. When you release them during the heat of the day, they may immediately fly away. Early morning when it's still cool and when there is still some dew on the plants is another good time. Only release a few ladybugs at a time and try to find places where there is a good supply of aphids, mites or scale. Ladybugs are usually thirsty after being stored, and appreciate moist places to drink. If necessary, sprinkle some water around first before their release. Most of the time, they'll get all the moisture they need from eating pests, but anything that you can do to help them feel happy and comfortable at the beginning will keep them from flying away.
If you have enough plant pests that the ladybugs like to eat, they will mate and lay eggs. Ladybug eggs look like clusters of little orange footballs, each laid on edge usually on the underneath side of a leaf. After the eggs hatch, the larvae look like tiny black alligators, with orange spots. These larvae grow quickly to 1/2" in length over 2-3 weeks. Then they pupate, usually on the top of the leaf, into another adult ladybug. Ladybug larvae are voracious eaters and can consume up to 400 medium-size aphids before they pupate.
Ladybugs will eat the pests on your plants, but they don't ever eat the plants themselves. While other insects may pose a threat to humans, animals and crops, ladybugs are harmless. Having a ladybug land on you and crawl up your arm can be a magical moment. That's why so many cultures over the centuries have cherished ladybugs, believing them to bring good luck.
Kids always love ladybugs and might want to keep a few in a ladybug house. Make sure your pet ladybugs have pests to eat and water to drink, and they might just bring you good luck.