You should always be excited when you see ladybugs in your garden; they are a great, all-natural way to get rid of unwanted garden pests! Although there are definitely some bugs you want to keep away from your plants, ladybugs should be welcomed because they are “beneficial” insects: they eat garden pests while leaving the other beneficial insects and your plants alone.
When my garden was infested with aphids and ants last year, I released some ladybugs in the garden. Within 48 hours most of the pests were gone, and within about 10 days there were absolutely zero signs of any aphids or ants on my plants!
Ladybugs are best known for eating aphids, but they actually eat mealy bugs, mites, and other varieties of soft-bodied insect pests as well. And actually, it’s the ladybug larvae who eat the most aphids; a single ladybug larva can eat up to 400 medium-sized aphids during their development into the pupal stage!
This is what my chamomile plants looked like at the beginning of last summer; aphids everywhere! And there were ants all over the place because they were eating the sweet “honeydew” secretions the aphid larvae left on the plants. Yuck!
There are two good ways to get ladybugs in your garden: you can attract them naturally, or you can purchase them in bulk. Buying them from a garden center or mail-order garden center is certainly the fastest way to get ladybugs into your garden, but you’ll still need to do a bit of work so that the ladybugs feel comfortable enough to stick around and lay eggs in your garden!
Ladybugs survive on pest insects and pollen, so make sure there are plenty of both in your yard. If you’ve been spraying pesticide in your garden, stop! It may seem a little counterintuitive to let the aphids, mites, and other pests start to take over, but once the ladybugs show up they’ll take care of the problem, and if you’re spraying pesticide it will harm all the bugs, including the ladybugs. Another thing you can do to encourage ladybugs in your garden is to have flowering plants; adult ladybugs really love the pollen.
When your ladybugs arrive, stick them in the fridge until you’re ready to release them. The ladybugs should come with care instructions, but they are usually shipped in cold storage to encourage a “hibernation” of sorts, so if you’re not quite ready to release them into your garden, the fridge will help encourage them to stay hibernating until you’re ready for them.
Ladybugs don’t fly at night, so the best time to release them is just after sunset; that way they will at least stick around until morning. And of course, they’ll be thirsty after their long hibernation while they were shipped to you, so make sure to thoroughly water the garden before releasing them.
Usually when you purchase ladybugs, they come with a small packet of ladybug “food”. When you’re ready to release the ladybugs, prepare the packet of food according to the directions that came with it, then head outside to your garden!
How To Release Ladybugs In Your Garden And Encourage Them To Stay
Here’s what you will need:
- scissors to open the packaging
- a binder clip if you plan on only releasing a portion of the bugs at a time
- the prepared food in a spray bottle
- orange soda in a spray bottle
The instructions that come with your ladybugs will give you detailed instructions, but basically you want to make your garden super enticing to the ladybugs to encourage them to stick around. I sprayed the prepared ladybug food all over my plants. Then I filled a small spray bottle with orange soda and sprayed it onto the ladybugs in the bag before cutting the bag open. The orange soda doesn’t hurt them at all; it’s just a little sticky and it makes it hard for them to open their wings and fly away. The orange soda and stickiness will be gone within 24 hours, so don’t worry about permanently crippling your ladybugs; you just want to encourage them to stay at least overnight so they can get some food and water and decide that your garden is an awesome place to make a home!
Once the ladybugs were lightly sprayed with orange soda (don’t drown them!), I cut open the corner of the bag and shook out about a third of the bugs all over my plants. Then I clipped the bag closed and put it back in the fridge. Just in case the ladybugs didn’t stay in the garden, I wanted to stagger my release. I released another third of the ladybugs two days later, and the last third two days after that.
If you can convince the ladybugs to stick around in your garden, they will mate and lay eggs within about 10 days. And soon after that the larvae will hatch and start eating your pest insects! In my garden, the ladybugs started eating the pests in the first week and the pests were all gone after about ten days. And three weeks later, the plants were thriving again!
So if your garden has been taken over by aphids, ants, mites, or other pests, try these tips to make your garden attractive to ladybugs. The pests will be gone in no time; no pesticides required!
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If you liked this project, check out these other simple gardening tips!