Ladybugs are probably the one insect that does not get people up in arms when they crawl on them. In fact most people I talk to, when they see a ladybug, go out of their way to get the ladybug to crawl on their hands. Ladybugs are one of those “cute” insects with the praying mantis being another. It’s important that you know how using ladybugs in your garden will control aphids without harming your plants or other beneficial insects.
Recently on my weekly vegetable gardening show I had the privilege of chatting with garden expert Joe Lamp’l who is also the host of the award winning show on PBS, Growing a Greener World. During that conversation we talked about insects and the home vegetable garden. Specifically we discussed how some gardeners will spray pesticides on their garden to combat harmful pests, but the reality is that less than 5% of the insects in your garden actually do any damage to the garden.
Invariably what happens is, those home gardeners that spray their crops with pesticides will also kill the non harmful and beneficial insects that also live there. When this occurs you are removing that natural pest fighting ability for your plants and that is, insects that eat other insects.
How Aphids are Harmful
One such harmful insect to your garden is the aphid. Aphids in most areas of the country are the number one insect for crop damage. They attack just about any plant in your garden by sucking the sap from them. They reproduce at a quick rate and can devastate a garden in no time.
Aphids are very tiny insects that come in a wide range of colors although the most common are green or white. What makes them so devastating is their ability to reproduce asexually. However, asexual reproduction does not occur in all species.
We – as gardeners – are in luck because although aphids are the “great destroyer” of crops, we have a superhero beneficial insect that is ready to wipe them out for us and that is the ladybug.
How Ladybugs Help Control the Aphid Population
Ladybugs are important to controlling the aphid population because aphids are their food source. It has been said by researchers that ladybugs can eat up to their weight each day in aphids. Knowing this tidbit of information you can see why you would want some ladybugs in your garden.
There are a couple of ways you can get ladybugs to your garden. Besides searching for aphids to eat, ladybugs also like pollen. Planting flowers and herbs do a nice job in slowly bringing ladybugs into the fold. I did extremely well with some artichoke plants this past season.
With that said, the quickest way to add ladybugs to your garden is to simply buy them. Yes, you can buy live ladybugs and release them in your garden. They come in various quantities from as low as 100 to as many as 10,000. The amount you need you will depend on how big your garden is. Me personally, I would never get less than 1,000.
Buying them directly is not only the quickest way, but it’s fairly cheap. You can get 1,000 live ladybugs for under $5.00, and that includes the shipping. Search around for a reputable source. I recommend reading the reviews online at Amazon.
Now that you have ladybugs, if you simply release them, they will only stay long enough to eat the aphids that are there and they will move on. You need to keep them around, and the best way to do that is, what I had recommended earlier, plant flowers and plenty of herbs. You won’t get all of them stay no matter what you do, but if you can keep about 25%, your garden will be safe from aphid devastation.
Note: You can also entice the ladybugs to stay by using a ladybug house. Though they’re not guaranteed to keep your little buddies around, their presence may help.