How To Attract Ladybugs To Your Garden


 How To Attract Ladybugs To Your Garden

Growing your own food organically is great for your health and the environment, but if you can't use chemicals, how will you control destructive pests? The answer is to invite their enemies into your garden. “Enemy” insects are known as beneficial insects because they benefit your garden plants rather than destroying them. There are two types of beneficial insects:

Insects that pollinate your plants, such as bees.
Insects that eat insects that destroy your plants.

One of the best beneficial insects to have in your garden is the ladybug. They eat aphids, mealybugs, mites, leafhoppers, scales and even powdery mildew.

What are Ladybugs?

Ladybugs (Coccinellidae spp) are not actually insects. They're little beetles. There are 200 different species of ladybugs in North America. The new arrivals are Asian ladybugs that were once used in international trade and now live happily in our yards eating destructive insects. Whether native or exotic, all ladybugs are red or yellow with varying numbers of black spots. But it's not just adults who do more good. Ladybug larvae are avid feeders of aphids.

The ladybugs lay their orange or yellow eggs in clusters near aphid colonies. The eggs hatch in about a week. The larvae resemble small black crocodiles with yellow or orange markings. They feed on aphids until they become adults in about a month. The tiny caterpillars eat dozens of aphids a day. Older larvae can eat up to 100 insects per day.

To get larvae, you need an adult ladybug. To encourage adults to come into your garden and lay eggs, provide them with a favorite food, water, and an attractive environment to hide.

What Do Ladybugs Eat?

Ladybugs love to eat pollen as well as insects. They have some favorite pollinators, so plant the following flowers and herbs in your garden to attract hungry ladybugs to your garden.

Flowers

Cosmos
Sunflowers
Coreopsis
Marigolds
Sweet Alyssum
Scented Geraniums

Herbs

Angelica
Dill
Calendula
Yarrow
Tansy
Caraway
Fennel
Feverfew
Cilantro
Chives

Cut back the flowers so the plant continues to produce flowers throughout the summer. After the flowers die, the plants will produce seeds instead of new flowers, so cut off any flowers that have begun to die.
Make sure to leave part of your garden a little “grassy.” Ladybugs also love pollen from dandelions and Queen Anne's lace.

How to Provide Water for Ladybugs

Leaving a bowl of water outside is tempting for beetles, but if it is not emptied and refilled every day, it may attract mosquitoes. Furthermore, if the bowl is too deep, the ladybugs may drown in it. It is best to use a shallow bowl of water filled with marbles or small stones to give them something to chew on while drinking.

Don't Buy a Ladybug House

Don't waste your money building a ladybug house. Ladybugs don't build nests like some insects, but they need protection from daytime predators like frogs or birds. Provide them with low-growing plants like thyme, oregano, or even straw mulch to hide in.

In winter, ladybugs hibernate. Asian ladybugs like to hibernate in our warm homes while natives sleep in leaf litter, which is a good reason not to rake your leaves in the fall.

Can You Buy Ladybugs?

Introducing ladybugs through the mail into your garden can reduce local ladybug populations. Ladybugs purchased via mail order are hunted. Since they are most likely coming from another part of the country, they may be carrying diseases or parasites that are not found in your part of the country. Ladybugs in your area will not be resistant to these “exotic” diseases. Ladybugs in your garden may die or have their lives shortened so they lay fewer eggs, resulting in fewer adult ladybugs.

Another problem with wild-caught ladybugs is that they are often harvested while they are dormant, so they are not ready to feed when released. They will fly away no matter how attractive the local aphids or pollen plants are.

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