Ladybug, Ladybug

February 12th, 2013 posted by Melanie Gold

My family recently moved into a 19th century farmhouse, and one of the first things we discovered was that living in an old house was synonymous with living with ladybugs. Lots of them. I am not sure how they got inside, but if what they say about ladybugs bringing good luck is true, nothing good will happen to me in this lifetime or any other reincarnation. Each day, while vacuuming up beetles, I daydreamed about warmer weather, so that instead of getting rid of them I could put them to good use in my vegetable and herb gardens. Ladybugs, of the Coccinellidae family, are well known to gardeners as “beneficials,” insects who eat other, unwelcome insects. These beetles, with over four hundred native species, are native to North America. But if you can’t find the common, red and black-speckled convergent ladybugs(Hippodamia convergens) in your backyard (or kitchen, in my case), you can easily buy them.

Ladybug Varieties

Also known as ladybirds and lady beetles, adult ladybugs and their larvae feed on aphids, spider mites, mealybugs, and other small, soft-bodied pests who systematically destroy your garden. They also eat the eggs of unwanted insects. Larvae of one species of ladybug consume two hundred to three hundred aphids, a common garden pest with over 1,350 species, during their two- to three-week development. Adults eat three hundred to four hundred aphids over the course of one month. These numbers translate into a one-two punch against a garden pest that will eat anything from ornamental fruit trees to root vegetables. Aphids are green, pink, black, or gray pear-shaped insects up 3/8″ long, with antennae and sometimes wings, often found in large colonies. Aphids pierce a leaf and suck out the plant sap. In addition to depleting the plant of its sap, the aphids leave behind a kind of goo on leaves which supports sooty mold. Some species also spread plant viruses. The mealybug destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) does just what it says. The larvae of this lady beetle variety have long, white, waxy hair that resembles their prey. Both larvae and adults are effective predators on all stages and species of above-ground mealybugs found on citrus fruits, grapes, and greenhouse and house plants. This species is native to California and the West Coast. Mealybugs are tiny, oval, segmented insects most commonly found in the American South. They attack citrus fruits, avocados, grapes, apples, and potatoes, as well as tropical and ornamental plants. Other varieties of the ladybug have proven effective against spider mites and other pests. Spider mites are minute, spiderlike pests with reddish, pale green or yellow bodies and are often found on the underside of leaves. Spider mites can be found frequently on bean, cucumber, eggplant, melon, and tomato plants. But beware: A few lady beetle species, such as the Mexican bean beetle and squash beetle, are actually plant pests, not beneficials.

Ladybug Lifecycle

In spring, overwintering adults migrate to find food. After feeding for a few days, they lay their eggs in clusters among aphids, spider mites, or other prey. Eggs hatch three to five days later, and larvae feed for several weeks. Adults emerge approximately one week later. In fall, adults overwinter in leaf litter, wooded areas, or other protected locations (like my rented farmhouse).

How to Attract Ladybugs

Plant pollen and nectar flowers, especially angelica and dill, and allow for a few weeds such as dandelion and yarrow. Keep your garden moist. Attract other beneficials such as birds, bees, spiders, and toads with birdhouses, brightly colored nectar-producing flowers, mulched pathways and bare areas, and a clay flowerpot to act as a toad house. Protect your plants against feeding birds, though, and never use sprays– including organically acceptable pesticides such as oil and soap sprays–because they can harm the lady beetles.

How to Keep Ladybugs Attracted

You can keep lady beetles in your garden, feasting on pests, simply by planting flowers, herbs, and vegetables that they like. Grow small, shallow-necked flowers from which they can sip nectar. Daisies, dill, fennel, mint, mustard, and onion are some plants that beneficials favor. Daisy-family herbs (goldenrod, chamomile, coreopsis, marigold, sunflower, tansy, and yarrow) will attract lady beetles as well as assassin bugs, honeybees, hover flies, lacewings, and parasitic wasps. Mint-family herbs (check for the characteristic square stem and fragrant leaves of the mint family) will attract similar beneficials. You could also try carrot-family herbs (check for umbrella-shaped flower clusters) such as angelica, anise, caraway, dill, and fennel. Try these other herbs: bee balm, catnip, hyssop, lavender, sweet marjoram, oregano, sage, thyme, chives, onions, buckwheat, and clover. In addition to dandelion, common weeds such as lambs-quarters and wild mustard will also attract those beneficials. Watching as the ladybugs walked across the sun-warmed windows of late winter, I decided that until I could transfer them outside, I would better utilize them by growing some indoor plants.

Melanie Gold (1 Posts)

Featured Contributor

Cindy Rowe
Cindy Rowe (7 Posts)

Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!

Contests & Giveaways

Win Fun Stuff!

Check out all the fun goodies we are
giving away here!

Featured Giveaway

***WE HAVE A WINNER!**** Our #2 Anonymous Poster says: What an awesome giveaway! I’d love to win this and give it to my grandkids for Christmas! Thanks for the giveaway  […]   READ ARTICLE

Giveaways change every couple of weeks, so be sure to check back often.

Coming up!

Orange Carrot Less-Drip Ice Pops

Parents are always looking for ways to sneak some vegetables into their child’s diet. Well, unless your kids are avid carrot lovers, just call these orange ice pops — they’ll […]