The Aphid: A Brutish and Uncivilized Thug
Nasty little creatures called aphids can destroy a lovely garden. These brutish insects hang out in colonies and swarm poor unsuspecting garden plants. They are tiny, about the size of a sharpened pencil tip and their little pear-shaped bodies feed on fragile young leaves, new shoots, and twigs or branches. What’s worse is that while these aphids feed, they leave a residue, aphid honeydew on the plants.
The residue is a blackish brown color that resembles mold and essentially suffocates a plant leaf preventing it from photosynthesizing properly. The leaves then curl and turn brown. Honeydew will also attract infestations of bees. What did your garden ever do to deserve this?
Ladybugs to the Rescue
One natural way to get rid of aphids is to introduce lady bugs into your yard. You could spray aphids in your garden with pesticides, but do you really want to eat produce that has synthetic chemicals on it? Fortunately, the natural world has a provided a mechanism of aphid control for wrestling control over your garden. The almighty predator of the smarmy aphid is none other than the precious ladybug. The ladybug will provide natural aphid control by feasting upon colonies until its belly is full, and then feast some more. Adult ladybugs can eat up to a 1,000 aphids a day. Not bad for a precious lady.
You Can’t Cage Ladybugs – So How Do they Stay in the Garden?
Yes it’s true, ladybugs are fierce aphid predators, but they’re also free spirits. Ladybugs like to roam the world in search of the perfect flower where they can have a cup of tea with their friends and swap tall tales of aphid conquests. So, keeping them in your garden is a challenge but not impossible. Here are some tips for keeping the precious ladybugs in your garden:
- Since ladybugs use the sun for navigation, release them at a time when there is no sun! This means releasing them after the sun sets or before the sun rises.
- Before you release them water your garden so that they have nice fresh water to drink from.
- And another thing you can do before you release them is to cool them off in the fridge. This tends to make the ladybugs a bit lethargic and less likely to seek adventure elsewhere so quickly.
Most of your local nurseries have ladybugs for sale or you can buy them online. Treat your garden right this summer – nature’s way!
Please let us know if you have tried ladybugs and what kind of results you got.
This post by Justin Rickard, a sustainability writer living on the Front Range of Colorado.