My love for ladybugs runs pretty deep. It's not just because they are known to bring good luck, but they also bring a natural balance to our gardens that allows us to keep pests in check without incorporating insecticides that harm the health of our plants, bodies, and our planet.
I'm such a fan that I made this video for the kids at our school when we had just been a few weeks into 2020 COVID lockdown. You can check that out here!
SOME LADYBUG 411
- It may seem not easy to distinguish between the various ladybugs (or lady beetle or lady bird) when you "spot" them in the garden. That is because there are more than 5,000 known species of ladybugs.
- If you find one in your garden, they may also be hanging around longer than you'd think. The lifespans of insects can vary from hours to decades, and ladybugs fall somewhere in between and can live up to two years.
- As mentioned above, spotting a ladybug or having one land on you is a sign of good luck in numerous cultures. That tidbit, in particular, is fun to share with kids because who doesn't love a little garden luck/magic while learning outdoors.
- Most people think of ladybug markings as "spots." However, you could also view these ruby beauties with stripes or without markings. Speaking of their bright red domes, it is a ladybug adaptation that protects it from predators who associate the color with a bitter taste.
- And - although they might be cute - don't let these carnivorous predators fool you. Lucky for us, in addition to pollen, they prefer to eat other insects that can cause havoc to many garden plants.
HOW THE LADIES GET THE JOB DONE
Ladybugs will stick around your garden as long is enough food to feed the insects and the ladybug larvae (babies). Once that is determined, the following occurs:
- A ladybug will lay eggs on the undersides of a leaf, usually where a cluster of aphids has formed.
- A few days later, the larvae babies (which resemble small alligators) hatch and begin devouring aphids to accommodate their quickly growing, shedding, and pupating (transforming) bodies.
INVITING LADYBUGS INTO YOUR GROWING SPACE
If you want the pollen/aphid-loving creatures to find your garden, you just need to include the right crops to attract them. Like us, the fragrant aroma of numerous herbs can make their mouths water, and they're also attracted to the bright colors and sticky pollen of multiple flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
- Our favorite ladybug-loving herbs include Mint, Parsley, Dill, Fennel, and Dill.
- Flowers that make the list include Geraniums, Cosmos, Sunflowers, Nasturtium, and Calendula.
- Fruit and vegetable ladybug must-haves include Garlic, Artichokes, and Tomatoes.
TIPS FOR RELEASING LADYBUGS INTO THE GARDEN
Releasing ladybugs into your growing space is one of my favorite activities with children. You can purchase a container of ladybugs from your local plant nursery, or many online retailers can humanely ship them to your home.
Once you are ready to release the ladybugs, there are a few things to think about to keep as many as possible within your garden so that they can make a positive impact.
- Wait until the late afternoon. We prefer right after sundown. This time of day is ideal because the ladies don't like to travel, and it will help keep the majority around until the following day.
- Thoroughly water the garden ahead of time. It is possible that the ladybugs will be incredibly dehydrated and will appreciate the refreshment.
- Please them near a food source. If you have aphids, let them loose on the little buggers. They will also appreciate being near some favorite flowers or herbs (see below).