Ladybug – The Ultimate Party Crasher

Ladybug (6)

Soon we’ll be heading into some warm weather but with that brings some unwanted visitors to the garden. Namely aphids. Those little suckers (literally) start to emerge from out of nowhere it seems and one day you’ll notice that they’ve decided to party on your rose bush and have invited the whole aphid neighbourhood to join them. There are green ones, there are black ones, there are ones with wings and there are ones without.

They hang about, clustered together on rose buds, under leaves and in every nook and cranny they can find, sucking the life out of your plant. That is the time to hit them with the ultimate party crasher. The ladybug.

The quiet little ladybug will descend upon the greedy aphids and wreak havoc with the partygoers. Ladybugs love to eat aphids along with thrips, spider mites and other soft bodied pests.

Pest on hellebore

Aphids on hellebore

If aphids could make noise I’m sure the garden would be a cacophony of screams when the ladybug appears on an aphid infested plant. Although I don’t want my peaceful weekend interrupted with screaming aphids I’m quite happy to see the ladybugs do some devouring.

Ladybugs are an excellent alternative to spraying pesticides. Pesticides are non-selective, meaning they don’t target one type of pest, they kill them all. So if you were to shoot a spray of pesticide in the general direction of the aphid party and there were some spiders, a honey bee and a ladybug or two trying to get in then you’d nuke them all, not just the aphids. Not to mention any unsuspecting bug who comes along to clean up the dead or dying aphids.
Instead, use ladybugs, Nature’s natural defense against aphids. Ladybugs are sold in bags, kept ‘sleeping’ in the fridge, at the garden centre.

The best time to release them is in the evening when the sun has gone down. They are less likely to fly off right away into your neighbour’s yard although your neighbour wouldn’t mind, I’m sure. Perhaps all your neighbours can get together for a ladybug release evening. That way you are sure to have some head over the fence to your yard.

If your neighbours look at you funny when you suggest this then try throwing a light cloth (a sheet or remay work well) over the aphid-ridden plant to ensure ladybug captivity until they figure out that there’s a buffet being served there. Keep the remay over the plant for a day or two. Some still manage to escape but that’s ok, it’s always good to share with your neighbour. Ladybugs are also thirsty when they first come out of the bag so provide some water for them by lightly spraying the plant before releasing them.

Ladybug eggs (3)

Ladybug egg cluster

Not only do the adults love eating aphids, the ladybug larvae go crazy over those suckers. Ladybugs lay clusters of little, yellow; oval eggs on the underside of leaves. These hatch into larvae which really look nothing like their parents. They look more like an exotic miniature alligator. They pack a huge appetite though and eat more than the adult. So if you see these funny looking blackish brown things with orange or yellow markings on them don’t recoil in fear and squish them!

Ladybug larvae (3)

Ladybug larvae

My kids used to love it when I bring home a bag of ladybugs to release (they’ve since hit the teenage years so less interested in creepy crawlies of any sort). I’d let them hold the bag as the first few ladybugs emerge, crawling a tickly path over fingers and up arms. Then the masses would start to come out of the bag and the squeals and screams began. At that point I’d take pity on them (and the ladybugs) and place the bag under the remay, usually tying it to a branch so that some leaves are touching the bag.  We’d watch until the last ladybug was out of the bag and the branches were alive with orange.

Keep an eye out for those aphids as the weather warms and the new soft growth appears on the plants. It’s a perfect place to party but its one party you need to nip in the bud. Get the ladybug patrol working for you.

 

Shirley Eppler

February 2016