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Ladybugs in the Garden

Historically, ladybugs (also known as ladybirds or lady beetles) have been considered lucky in many cultures, possibly because people recognized the link between plentiful ladybugs and good harvests. There are many ladybug species and the majority are beneficial due to their voracious appetite for garden pests.

Ladybugs naturally control a broad array of garden pests (both bugs and fungal infections such as powdery mildew, depending on the species). These helpful insects can be purchased at many garden supply stores or attracted to the garden by creating a ladybug-friendly environment (even if you buy ladybugs, you’ll need to create the right environment to encourage them to stay or they’ll just fly away in search of a better site).

You can attract and retain ladybugs by offering some of their preferred food sources. Plants that provide good ladybug food include:

  • Angelica
  • Caraway
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Tansy
  • Wild carrot
  • Yarrow

You can also create ladybug nectar by mixing of honey, water, sugar, and brewer’s yeast. Making this nectar available will encourage female ladybugs to lay their eggs in your garden and establish a colony (Golden Harvest Organics provides a recipe for beneficial insect food here). It’s also important to avoid using pesticides, which kill garden visitors indiscriminately, taking out the helpers along with the pests.

Ladybugs lay eggs in the spring, attaching their clusters of orange or yellow offspring to the undersides of leaves. Ladybug larvae are larger than the adults and look nothing like ladybugs (they resemble a strange mixture of short caterpillar, earwig, and little dragon). These young ladybugs can each consume as many as 350 aphids while waiting to enter their pupa stage, which lasts for one week to 10 days, during which they transform into adults.

Although most ladybugs are good for the garden, beware of the one with 28 spots (Henosepilachna vigintioctopunctata), which eats pumpkin, potato, eggplant, cucumber, melon, pepper, and tomato plants.

Sources:
Coleby-Williams, J., “Fact Sheet: Lady Birds,” Gardening Australia, 12 May 2007.
Jones, S., “Ladybug 101,” Wild About Gardening, Canadian Wildlife Federation, 2012.
Image source: Jennifer Copley, www.metaphoricalplatypus.com

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