Ladybugs can consume 1,000 aphids per day

 

Last week we began to explore the role of beneficials in our gardens. After all, not every little critter we find in our outdoor space is bad, even if attractive!

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e us begin with one of the beneficials that everyone will recognize ‑‑  the lady bug or ladybird beetle. It is a critter we welcome in our gardens, at least in the adult stage of its life. These orange/red black spotted beetles are recognized throughout the world and have been recognized in songs, poetry and folklore tales. They are an icon that is symbolic of biocontrols and integrated pest management.

Ladybugs preferred diet is aphids and are known as an aphid predator. However, they are also a bit opportunistic and will dine on other pests like mites and insect eggs. The most common type of ladybug sold as a predator for aphids is Hippodamiaconvergens. Bear in mind that even though the ladybugs will eat other pests, it is best to purchase this specific predator for aphid control, which does prove to be extremely effective.

There are four stages to the life cycle of the ladybug. The female ladybug will lay up to 50 eggs per day on the upper-sides of leaves on infested plants to ensure the larvae hatching out is close to a food source.

The eggs will hatch into larvae with vociferous appetites. They are aphid eating machines and consume in the adult form about 1,000 aphids per day. As larvae they consume about half that amount. These larvae are not the prettiest critter in your garden as they look similar to tiny alligators. As they grow they will shed their skin numerous times as they grow larger.

The pupae stage occurs after a couple of weeks of the larvae growing. Once again, the pupae stage is not really attractive as they appear rather shrimp-like. They will attach to a leaf and in a few days will metamorphosis into the adult stage of the lady bug. The juvenile forms of the ladybug last approximately one month, while adult ladybugs will live for about 11 months.

The largest drawback of using ladybugs for predator control is that they are rather flighty. If not released properly, within one day you may see 90 per cent of the ladybugs released disappear. There are also some times of the year when they are not readily available for purchase, usually around mid-May. The spring is also the time that marks the end of their lifecycle so purchasing adults in spring is not ideal.

It is estimated that more than 90 per cent of the bugs in your garden are actually not harmful. This means there is a multitude of critters just hanging around trying to keep the good bugs and the bad bugs in balance. Why not try enticing some of the beneficials that are in your garden naturally to hang around as your guests for longer. There are a number of plants that act as lures for the good guys. Try planting asters, camomile, marigolds, oregano, sage, sunflowers, thyme, yarrow and zinnias. The entire Compositae or “daisy” family will attract a number of beneficials including ladybugs. In the vegetable patch carrots, parsley, fennel, cabbage, radish and cauliflower are also good lures.

Insects also like to have some type of water source. A good way to achieve this is to set a shallow dish into the ground with stones which help the insects to land safely.

Think carefully before reaching for the pesticides which do in the good guys along with the bad.

If you are looking to purchase beneficials for any purpose – including fly control ‑‑ please get in touch with us at Orchid Horticulture at info@orchidhort.com or by telephone at 306-931-4769.

Hanbidge is the lead horticulturist with Orchid Horticulture. Find us at www.orchidhort.com; by phone at 306-931-4769; by email at info@orchidhort.com; on facebook @orchidhort and on instagram at #orchidhort.

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