Ladybugs have been valued as farmer’s helpers since medieval times, so it was only logical when we decided to combat our aphid problems this year, we decided to release ladybugs to help us. Aphids are one of the most destructive insect pests. They can destroy plants in a snap, thus wreaking havoc in a garden. Ever year they seem to show up on the native wild flowers that grow in our yard and once they have their way with them, they end up migrating to our garden. Well not this year, you nasty little aphids!
Legend states that ladybugs were divinely sent to ride crops of insect pests. People dedicated the ladybug to the Virgin Mary and called it the “bug of our lady,” which over time was shortened to ladybug. And divine the ladybug might be. Ladybugs are capable of consuming up to 50 to 60 aphids per day. Yes, a single ladybug can eat that many! So you can see why we decided to get us a few (1,500.) And I can’t wait to sing their praises like farmers before me.
You can order ladybugs from Amazon and have them shipped right to your home! If we order more, that will be the route we take. My hubby ordered ours off of eBay, and I was disappointed in the packaging. Ours came in a little sack that to me just wasn’t enough protection for the bugs in transit and would not make a suitable place to keep them for an extended time for multiple releases. I explain why you don’t want to release them all at once in a second.
When our ladybugs arrived it was mid-day. You do not want to release your ladybugs in the middle of that day with the sun shinning and the temperatures high. Why? Because they will all run away. Okay, maybe not run, but they will fly away. Every piece of information I came across while researching ladybugs stressed waiting till dusk before letting our new little friends go because ladybugs do not fly at night.
So that evening, hubby and I put the country kids to bed and took a romantic walk around our property, releasing some of our ladybugs here and there. We had just had a nice rain come through, so we didn’t have to, but you should water the area you plan to release your ladybugs in. By spraying water you will be providing a much needed source of moisture for them to start their life in your yard off right. You should also release your ladybugs at the base of plants. They will climb up (cause ladybugs love to climb) and find a spot that is just right for them.
How do I know ladybugs like to climb? Because our hands were covered in them as we tried to open the bag to get a few to release at each stop. Didn’t I tell you it was a romantic stroll?!?! Many folks advise refrigerating ladybugs prior to releasing them, to slow them down. Just keep in mind, the longer ladybugs are refrigerated, the shorter their life span will be. How long does a ladybug live, you might ask? They can live up to 2-3 years!
Do NOT release all your ladybugs at once! Why? If there is not enough food, they will all fly away. Your best bet is to release a couple hundred at a time, let them settle in, then visually check to see if they are remaining and the aphids are being controlled. If the aphids are cleared out, you have too many ladybugs and they will leave. If the aphids are still running wild, release more ladybugs. The ladybugs are there to CONTROL aphid populations not destroy them. If the aphid population is destroyed, the lady bugs will move away. You are trying to get a balance of ladybugs to aphids so your bugs will remain, keep breeding, and sustain a population.
While ladybugs are wild and can take care of themselves, we decided to give them a little help and make our home enticing for them to stay. Taking some old broken tiki torches, we cut the bamboo to create ladybug houses. The tubes were cut with an angle on them, so the lady bugs would be protected from rain while inside. If a lady bug runs out of food to eat it will relocate to a new area. We also placed a raisin in each tube before placing them around our garden.
Not everyone has a couple of broken old tiki torches to build ladybug homes out of, but you can purchase bamboo at garden stores. If you aren’t up for making your own ladybug homes, they can also be purchased online.
Ladybugs are shipped in the adult stage and when released should mate and lay eggs within 8-10 days. Each female can lay 10-50 eggs daily. The key to establishing a permanent ladybug population is to get them to stay in your yard long enough to lay eggs. If they lay eggs and the adults fly away, the larvae of the ladybug will eat aphids as well. So get those ladybugs and make them comfortable so they lay eggs!
A ladybug’s life cycle depends on temperature, humidity, and food supply. It takes about three to four weeks for a ladybug to go from egg to adult. If it is cool, it could take up to six weeks for it to move through its developmental phases. In the fall, ladybugs will often swarm together in preparation for winter. Adult ladybugs like to over-winter in swarms under fallen leaves, bark, and rocks. In the spring the process of laying eggs and new generations of ladybugs will begin again.