Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Gardening 101: How to Use Ladybugs for Pest Management

When I taught you how to plant tomatoes last month, I had a lot of commenters bemoaning their aphid woes in regard to their tomatoes. So how do you get rid of aphids organically? The answer, my friends, is ladybugs!

While there are several chemical companies who would be delighted to sell you their expensive and toxic pest control products - I'm not interested in putting chemicals on my food or killing off the beneficial insects that may fall prey to these methods. Luckily, none of that is even necessary. Instead, ladybugs are an economical, organic and fun (yes, I said fun!) way to get rid of aphids. In addition to aphids, ladybugs also eat whitefly, scales, mites, mealybugs, broccoli worm, tomato hornworms, bollworms, and cabbage moths.

Supplies


Directions

Step 1: Get ladybugs
Trapping ladybugs on your own is time intensive. Save yourself time and buy ladybugs instead. You'll need about 1,500 ladybugs per 100 square feet of plants. Pick them up at your local nursery or order them online. Be sure to read reviews and order from someone who guarantees they will arrive alive (dead ladybugs won't help you!). I personally get my bugs from a local nursery but Good Bugs on Amazon has great reviews and guarantees they will arrive alive.

Step 2: Pick good timing
Chances that you're trying to control pests with ladybugs in the winter are probably slim BUT in case you are: don't. Ladybugs hibernate for the winter and will only be useful to you in the spring and summer. 

Assuming you're using them in the spring or summer, wait until the evening as the sun is going down to release them. This will make them more comfortable to explore their environment and seek out food (like aphids!). 

Step 3: Water
Before releasing your ladybugs at night, be sure to water your plants. The droplets of water left on leaves will be available to hydrate thirsty ladybugs, making them more likely to stay in your yard or garden if their needs are being met.

Step 4: Release the bugs!
Now that you have a watered garden, go ahead and open the jar or bag your ladybugs came in and place it at the base of the plant with pest issues. If you have several infected plants, allow a few ladybugs to crawl out of the bag before moving it to another plant, allow a few to crawl out and so on.

Don't worry if you don't see the ladybugs chowing down right away. They will need some time to acclimate to their new environment but by the next morning they will almost certainly be hungry and ready to devour a tasty aphid-y snack!

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1 comment:

  1. Hey there,

    I have another suggestion that has been passed onto me. Aphids are also drawn to the color yellow. I've been told by farmers of old times to paint a stick yellow and cover it with a sticky substance. Or, if that's not available, plant yellow marigolds to draw the aphids away from the other plants. This is called companion planting and I've been doing it for a couple of years now. It really seems to help.

    Debbie...(O:
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