Ladybugs, the gardener’s best friend

Ladybugs, the gardener’s best friend

Most gardeners know that lots on insects in the garden are what keep things “in the pink.” Of all the insects in the garden, the ladybug is one of the most recognizable and helpful. They are a friend – no, a best friend – of the gardener. They just love to make a meal of those dreaded aphids. Not only that, they look so darned cute.

You can attract ladybugs into your yard with just a little attention to detail. And then those colorful little bugs will help you with pest control in a most natural way. Certain plants attract ladybugs just like light to a moth.

Adult lady beetles are usually oval or domed shaped, and can range in color from red to orange. according to the Pioneer Thinking website. Their number of black markings can range anywhere from no spots to 15 spots. You can even find the more rare solid black or black with a red spot (called the Twice Stabbed Lady Beetle). Before you spray and kill a baby ladybug you might be interested to know that at that age they resemble “tiny six-legged alligators” and are blue-black with orange spots.

Why do gardeners love ladybugs? Pioneer Thinking notes that both adults and larvae feed on many different soft-bodies insects, but aphids are their main food source. A single adult has a voracious appetite and will likely eat 5,000 aphids in its lifetime. They also eat other insects such as mealy bugs, spider mites and eggs of certain potato beetles. In one year, you can have five or six generations of ladybugs because the average time from egg to adult is only three to four weeks.

Ladybugs will be drawn to your yard if you don’t spray much insecticide. They love to make a meal out of the flowers of such plants as fennel, dill, cilantro, caraway, wild carrot and yarrow. They also gravitate toward coreopsis, scented geraniums and dandelions.

If you just can’t wait or don’t have the space in your garden, you can buy ladybugs. Yes, you can buy them by the dozens or hundreds or thousands. Remember to release them after sundown or before sunrise. Pre-water the area where you are releasing them. They enjoy a drink of water, and the water will help them “stick” onto the plants. You can chill the ladybugs in the fridge before releasing them if it is really warm outside. Avoid Asian ladybugs and favor native species. Unlike we gardeners, ladybugs are big eaters and don’t ever seem to put on extra weight. It’s just not fair.