Ladybug

Do you know what is the scary-looking black and orange insect? If you said a bad one, you got it wrong.
The insect is a larvae lady beetle (aka ladybug). They are one of gardeners’ best friends because they eat aphids (the tiny yellow insect (in this case, that sucks fluids out of plants) and other insect pests such as mealybugs. One ladybug larvae can eat up to 25 aphids a day. The adult ladybug will also eat some aphids. Ladybugs also contribute to pollination.

How do you attract ladybugs to your backyard?

Some nurseries and horticultural operations are what they call “trap crops”. A trap crop is a type of plant that is highly attractive to a pest. The trap crops are sacrificial to provide a food source for aphids. By allowing the aphid population to establish, ladybugs will always be around since aphids are the main food source for their larval stage. If an aphid infestation takes over any other important crop, the established ladybugs in the area will help take care of it.

For example, aphids are a favorite food source for aphids. By having nasturtium in your backyard, you will most likely attract aphids and, therefore, ladybugs. Some of you might be thinking, “but I don’t want to attract aphids”. The truth is that many vegetables will attract aphids regardless. Some crops are more appealing than others. By having nasturtium in your backyard, you will attract aphids to them instead of other plants, and in case (or when) the aphids start to make their way into your veggies, that are a probability that ladybug larvae will be already on your nasturtium. You can either move some of them into your vegetables or wait until the ladybeetle finds them.

“I constantly have aphid infestation and I have not seen any ladybugs”

If that is a problem you encounter there are a couple of reasons why that is happening. Your area may be using a lot of pesticides and not provide the resources ladybugs need to survive; therefore, they don’t go your way. Pesticides kill all the insects, the good ones and the bad ones. So as a general practice I recommend avoiding using it at all if possible. I could go on and on about why pesticides are extremely detrimental but this is not the goal of this article.

What some people do to help establish a ladybug population in their area is purchase either ladybug larvae or adults. If this Is the route you want to take, it is very important to purchase the ladybeetles from a reliable source as we have an invasive species called “Asiatic ladybeetle” that is very similar to our native friend. However, this species is not beneficial. A very easy way to determine what kind of ladybug you have encountered is to look for an “M” marking on its head, as it is a prominent mark of the invasive species.

When choosing between purchasing the larvae or the adults, I recommend choosing the larvae (it is very important to only purchase the larvae if an aphid or mealybug infestation is present as these pests are the main food source; we want to make sure there is enough food available). The reason why I normally prefer the larvae is that the larvae can not fly away after you release them. Many gardeners claim that upon the release of the adult’s ladybugs the majority fly away and the aphid problem isn’t taken care. However, if you don’t know if you have a population established in your area yet, you can purchase the adults.

“How can I provide the resources to attract ladybugs”

When choosing between purchasing the larvae or the adults, I recommend choosing the larvae (it is very important to only purchase the larvae if an aphid or mealybug infestation is present as these pests are the main food source; we want to make sure there is enough food available). The reason why I normally prefer the larvae is that the larvae can not fly away after you release them. Many gardeners claim that upon the release of the adult ladybugs, the majority fly away, and the aphid problem isn’t taken care of. However, if you don’t know if you have a population established in your area yet, you can purchase the adults. The adults should be released at dusk after the plants have been watered; otherwise, there is a good chance all of them will fly away. Even when releasing them at the appropriate time with the appropriate conditions, there is no guarantee they will stick around. A trick that many gardeners do is releasing the ladybugs in a span of a couple of days to increase the likelihood at least some will stay.

You have to ensure you are providing them water, food, and shelter. The food will be the aphids; water can be provided through a birdbath, and for shelter, a diversity of pollinator plants and/or a bug hotel (you can find it on Amazon. Click here to see some options). Look for native plant species for your area (perennials, annuals, shrubs, and trees), and you can also experiment with planting some flowers to attract garden friends. A few species that I recommend planting are zinnias, cosmos, and marigolds, as they are very easy to care for annuals that are loved by pollinators.

Ladybug lifecycle

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