Photo: Darren Thorpe
Pests can be quite a problem, inhibiting your efforts at raising a successful garden. In this day and age as we become more aware of the negative effects of pesticides and the dangerous chemicals they contain, it makes sense to turn away from such perils and embrace other means of keeping our gardens pest free. There are many ways to do this, one on of which actually involves an insect that is a friend to gardeners instead of a foe.
The ladybug is an innocent looking insect that is often prized for the good luck said to accompany it. A lesser known fact about ladybugs, however, is that despite their cute appearance, they are actually quite the adversary when it comes to garden pests such as aphids. Feeding on the leaves, stems, and roots of plants, aphids are the enemy to gardeners as these nasty little herbivores are capable of doing serious damage to plants. Ladybugs, however, will gladly take care of your aphid problem, with each one feasting upon approximately 5,000 aphids in their lifetime. It is not only aphids that lady bugs will consume; other bugs such as cabbage moths, whiteflies, mealy bugs, and tomato hornworms among others are on their menu as well.
Since ladybugs are a valuable asset to gardeners, just how do you go about encouraging their presence? Generally all it takes for ladybugs to appear is the presence of aphids making this a situation that tends to rectify itself. The only reason they might not be naturally present is due to the presence of pesticides which in themselves are non-discriminate killers in that they wipe out insects that are both good and bad. However, it is possible to purchase them if you’re in a crisis and they do not show up on their own. Once they are there, regardless of how they arrive, you are going to want to keep them around in order to reap the benefits of their presence, which is a job that can be easier said than done.
Though an argument can be made that an unwillingness on the part of ladybugs to stay in your garden is good in that it means you do not have enough pests to sustain them, it can still be hard to see them go. Despite their need for nourishment that your garden does not hold for them, having such an ecological balance is a great sign. Even so, you may still want to encourage ladybugs to stay just in case, and here are a few steps you can take:
1. Refrigerate ladybugs to slow down their metabolism. This is only a short term solution intended to keep them on hand until you are ready to release them. The key, however, is to actually release them as opposed to turning your fridge into long term ladybug storage.
2. When the time for release arrives, do so in the evening so they will hunker down and sleep. Once morning comes, they will be rested and ready to get down to the business of snacking on your garden pests. It may also be beneficial to release them in smaller numbers as opposed to all at once in order to encourage at least some of them to stick around.
3. Provide a water source. We all need to drink, especially after some time spent in the fridge. Give plants a misting in order to provide your ladybugs with a little refreshment as they get to work.
4. Another way to retain ladybugs is by mixing water and regular soda in a 50/50 combination. Spray this on ladybugs before you release them and it will make their wings too sticky to fly. In the time it takes for this to wear off, females will start laying eggs. Even if those females go on to fly away, the eggs that hatch will likely stay due to the ladybug's territorial nature.
In the end, encouraging the presence of one bug will go a long way towards eliminating others. By conducting its purpose as nature intended, the ladybug will give you a garden that is safe from other harmful insect. If that is not good gardening luck, I don’t know what is!Discuss in our forums