I am not a fan of bugs, anything creepy, crawly, slimy, multi-legged or otherwise, they are not for me. As I learn more and more about the gardening world, I learn more about the benefits of bugs and not the opposite. I am surprised by this, so I decided to delve deeper.
Bugs in the garden, have many purposes, too many to list here. We of course know the benefits of bees and worms for example, but do you know about ladybugs? These beauties are perhaps one of the few bugs I can tolerate landing on me. Their distinctive red and black pattern makes them a favourite of many and the star in a few nursery rhymes and poems. Ladybugs remind me of the ugly duckling. When a ladybug is young, it looks similar to a sci-fi creature created by Stephen Spielberg, when they mature they morph into their notorious red and black polka dotted, “beautiful” self. So, if you see this nasty looking creature wandering around in your garden, don’t kill it – it will turn into a ladybug and do wonderful things for you.
Now, as mentioned, there are plenty of good bugs but there are also some unfavourable ones, such as the aphid. These little guys are truly a bit of a marvel. Due to their ability to rapidly increase their numbers by asexual reproduction, they are considered a highly successful group of organisms – from an ecological view point of course. Aphids are also among the most destructive insects, they will suck the sap from plants in turn weakening them. In addition to that, aphids act as a carrier for plant viruses and disfigure ornamental plants with deposits of honeydew and the subsequent growth of sooty moulds. Aphids vary in colour, size and abilities, some winged some not, some asexual some not. In summary, not something you want in your garden.
What do the lucky ladybug of nursery rhymes and the destructive aphid have in common? An aphid is the ladybug’s favourite snack. Each year at Art Knapp we bring in ladybug each year to be released into gardens. This is an all natural, 100% organic method of control. It is said that a single ladybug will eat up to 50 aphids a day and the larvae will eat their body weight in aphids each day. Multiple introductions of ladybugs is most effective but be sure to follow the instructions. If lady bugs don’t find aphids or other soft bodied insects to feed on they will likely move on to a different garden. In that case, timing is everything. It is helpful that the larvae can be stored in a fridge to keep it dormant until you are ready to release it.
If you are hoping to establish a lady bug population, try planting lady bug friendly plants such as mint, yarrow and dill that will produce the nectar needed for their reproduction. Angelica and clover are also good along with most shallow blossomed plants. If you mulch your garden, the lady bugs will have a place to winter and you can expect them again in the spring.
Interest piqued? Stop by our Information Booth, our lady bugs are here and we would be happy to walk you through the process. It is a fascinating thing this ladybug and aphid story. A typical good versus evil tale in which you know the ending, happy aphid free plants with the prettiest of beetles left happy and well fed. Perhaps I will have to change my tune on bugs.