This is a guest post from Maria Rainier. Maria is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education and performs research surrounding Online Degrees (onlinedegrees.org). In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.
If you’re struggling with infestations of green flies, red spider mites, or any other type of aphid or mite, the solution to your problems might be lady beetles. This is especially true if you have edible plants, heightened chemical sensitivity, or any other reason to avoid chemical pest control. Your neighbors will even thank you for keeping chemicals out of your yard because pesticides often drive out beneficial insect predators within a wide radius. If you want to keep your yard and the land around you free of chemicals, keep a balanced population of lady beetles in your garden or around any deliberate vegetation you might have in your yard.
The Benefits of Lady Beetles
As larva and adults, lady beetles feed on both aphid and mite eggs as well as the adult pests. Where you would have to combine different pest control methods if you chose to use chemicals or other solutions, lady beetles can take care of your problem in all of its stages. Another great benefit is that maintaining a lady beetle population can both eradicate current infestations and prevent new infestations from occurring. Lady beetles consume at least their own weight in pests each day and are fast predators, so you won’t have to worry about pests escaping from them. Within two or three weeks, a balanced population can take care of most infestations. However, even when your problem seems to be solved, you’ll want to keep the lady beetles around as a preventative measure.
Attracting and Maintaining Lady Beetle Populations
Before you try buying lady beetles, make an effort to attract them. You’ll save money and won’t risk causing an imbalance in your garden’s delicate ecosystem. If this doesn’t work, you can move on to purchasing lady beetles, but there are some simple steps you can take to try attracting them. So what keeps lady beetles coming back for more? The answer is simple: food. If you have an aphid or mite infestation, you already have an excellent lady beetle food source, but you may want to place attractive plants closer to your garden’s border to lure the lady beetles in. Besides aphids and mites, lady beetles are attracted to pollen and nectar from plants like alfalfa, goldenrod, morning glory flowers, dandelions, Queen Anne’s lace, and grains like buckwheat. If you don’t want to plant these in your yard, you can try offering artificial foods like BugPro, although lady beetles will prefer natural food sources if they have a choice. Once you’ve managed to get a lady beetle population, maintain it by avoiding insecticides and other harmful chemicals. Your population will also need a food source once your aphid or mite infestation has been eradicated, so it’s important to keep the aforementioned plants and/or continue to provide artificial food.
Buying Lady Beetles
If you can’t seem to attract a decent lady beetle population, you might resort to buying some of these insects from a local or online garden supply store. It’s helpful to choose lady beetle packages that have been screened to remove unhealthy specimens and offer a significant number of females to lay eggs and provide you with a second wave of predators within a week or so. Once you’ve chosen and purchased your lady beetles, it’s important to keep in mind that evening release tends to result in better population retention. You can also use a sprinkler or hose to spray down your yard, providing the lady beetles with a much-needed water supply. Again, keeping a supply of natural and/or artificial food sources available to your lady beetles is necessary for their survival, so try to have several food sources in place before you release them. If you’re concerned that the lady beetles might fly away before your infestation is eradicated, you can place garden fleece over the lady beetles after you’ve released them into your garden. This can keep some of them from escaping and can prolong your lady beetle
population’s stay in your garden.
Note from the editor: Do you already have a nice ladybug population? In case you don't, you can buy ladybug attractors from Garden.com or go for the big game with 1500 live lady bugs from Amazon.com.
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