The Dirt Diva

Tailoring your garden to your needs!

Ladybugs: Don’t turn them away, put them to work!

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You may be seeing a steady migration of ladybugs into your home, now that longer days and slightly warmer temps are here.

If you only have a few, or aren’t grossed out by them, put them to work protecting your houseplants!

Ladybugs, especially ladybug larvae LOVE to chow down on aphids, plant mites and scale insects, the nemesis of any one growing plants indoors or in green houses. Aphids, mites and scale bugs love warm humid protected environments, and are a pain to deal with. So, if you see ladies hanging out in the windows and doorways, capture them and put them on your houseplants. They’ll get busy attacking pests, as we see here munching away on green aphids:

Q. Why do ladybugs come into my house in the winter time?
A. Ladybugs are attracted to the light colored houses. Especially, homes that have a clear southwestern sun exposure. Older homes tend to experience more problem with invasions due to lack of adequate insulation. The ladybugs come in through small cracks around windows, door ways and under clap boards. They want to hibernate in a warm, comfortable spot over the cold months of winter. Ladybugs gather in groups when they hibernate, so if you see one, you can be sure more will follow. The best way to keep them out is to repair damaged clap boards, window and door trim and to caulk small cracks.

Q. What if I have a major infestation of ladybugs?
A.  Work on caulking/sealing up cracks around windows and doors. Get out the Shop Vac, use a clean bag or pad the bottom with a cloth and  vacuum up the ladybugs. After all is clean, release the unwelcome guests outside.

Q. What if I have aphids, scale or mites and I don’t have ladybugs?
A. There seems to be some controversy around mail order ladybugs lately. When you are purchasing online, its difficult to tell whether the ladybugs you’re looking at are wild harvested, commercially grown, US native or the Asian variety. There is also some concern about wild harvested mail ordered bugs carrying parasites and diseases that can cause harm to ladybug populations.

There are 2 things you can do this spring to control scale, aphids and mites naturally:

1. Attract native ladybugs to your garden by planting things they like to eat. Provide pollen-rich plants like Sunflowers, Zinnias, Asters, Daisies, cosmos, Echinacea, Black Eyed Susan, and Coreopsis. Also do not spray pesticides. Even approved for use in organics pesticides can have harmful impacts on ladybird beetles. Be sure to recognize ladybug larvae, so you don’t accidentally kill them!

2. Order green lacewings instead. They work better as a general predator in the garden and don’t seem to have the complications of mail order ladybugs. These can be purchased from Beneficial Insectary for homeowner use. Again, familiarize yourself with thier eggs and larvae, so you don’t accidentally smush them!

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