Your guide to controlling pests in your garden with ladybugs

Attracting ladybugs to your garden may require some planning but can help eliminate many pests, including aphids. Getting ladybugs to stay in your garden is easy once you know a few simple tips.

Your guide to controlling pests in your garden with ladybugs

How to get ladybugs to stick around

While ladybugs have a "flighty" reputation, they will stay put as long as they have a supply of water and food (including nectar- and pollen-rich plants and their favourite soft-bodied insects) and are not harmed by pesticides.

Ladybugs and aphids

In the garden, ladybug larvae can consume up to 40 aphids in an hour; both adults and larvae are predators.

A gift to gardeners

  • Ladybugs, also called lady beetles or ladybirds, dine heartily on pests in flowerbeds and vegetable gardens yet never damage the plants, and the larvae are hungrier than the adults.

But don't expect them to be a cure-all: ladybug's appetites are limited primarily to aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, scale, thrips and whiteflies.

Attracting ladybugs

  • Attract ladybugs to your flowerbeds with marigolds, angelica, butterfly weed, yarrow, roses and goldenrod.
  • In the vegetable garden, good lures include cucumbers, peppers, eggplants and tomatoes.

Buying ladybugs

Start with about 100 ladybugs per 93 square metres; if they have enough food and water, they'll stay and lay eggs in a few weeks.

  • Release them in your garden in the evening when it's calm and they have dew to drink.
  • If it's dry, sprinkle your plants first.
  • Place a handful of ladybugs around the base of a plant where you see pests and repeat every six metres.
  • If purchased ladybugs arrive before there are insects for them to eat in the garden, you can store them for three weeks in the refrigerator.

Keeping ladybugs through the winter

Keep ladybugs at home by offering a hibernation site.

  • Pile dead leaves, hay, straw, or other organic mulch at the base of a fence or around plants to serve as winter lodgings.

Types of ladybugs

Among the 3,000 species of ladybugs, the type most familiar to gardeners is the one with a black-spotted orange back.

  • But ladybugs can also be black or yellow, with or without white, red, or yellow spots.
  • Two of the most common are the intriguingly named twice-stabbed ladybug and the convergent ladybug. (Convergent ladybugs often swarm in the fall, entering houses and buildings in great numbers. The easiest way to make your house a ladybug-free zone is to vacuum up the intruders.)
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