How Are Ladybugs Beneficial?
The ladybug, also known as the Asian lady beetle, lady beetle, or ladybird beetle, is an extremely productive and beneficial tool for both home gardeners and commercial farms and greenhouses.
Both larvae and adult are voracious predators, eating aphids and other insect pests. They feed on the eggs and larvae of aphids, beetles, mites, moths, thrips, whiteflies, and other small insects.
The appetite of ladybugs is quite remarkable. An adult female may consume up to 60 aphids a day while the smaller male may consume up to 40. One larva can eat up to 350 aphids during its development.
They do not eat plants, but will eat pollen of some plant species.
Ladybugs also consume pollen as part of the dietary intake, fennel, cilantro, dill and yarrow are among their favorites. Planting these among your garden and along the borders will attract and keep ladybugs.
Pheromone based Lureslady bug lures will attract ladybugs during their mating stage.
You can also overwinter carrots in your garden. In their 2nd year they will produce a flower which will attract many lady bugs and other beneficial insects.
Releasing Ladybugs in Your Garden
Release purchased ladybugs only after sun down. Ladybugs navigate by the sun, in the evenings they tend to stay put.
In the warm months, it helps to chill the ladybugs in the fridge before releasing them. Ladybugs crawl rather than fly in colder temperatures and an overnight stay in the refrigerator won’t harm them.
On heavily infested plants , drape a floating row cover or thin sheet over the plant and release the ladybugs underneath. Within a day, the ladybugs will have found the aphids or other pests and will be happily dining.
Ladybugs prefer large pest populations to feast upon, which stimulates them to mate and reproduce.
When food is scarce adult ladybugs generally fly off, but their eggs then hatch and provide further control. (Both adults and larvae feed on insect pests.)
You can prevent ladybugs from flying away by ‘gluing’ their wings shut temporarily, with a sugar-water solution in a spray bottle, it really does work – temporarily. Spray it in the bag the ladybugs come in, as soon as it arrives.
Buying Live Ladybugs
There are issues with buying ladybugs to release in your garden. They eat harmful insects, this is true, but they also fly away when food sources become scarce.
When you purchase live ladybugs it is advisable that you not release them all at once, too much competition will cause many to seek greener pastures. Release them gradually after sun down every day.