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Ladybugs to the Rescue

 

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Ladybugs in the Culinary GardenLook out aphids, the ladybugs are here and hungry!  This week, dozens of ladybugs were released into the culinary garden to help control and hopefully preempt an infestation of aphids. Aphids are gardeners’ enemy, a destructive insect that sucks the life out of plants as well as transmits deadly plant viruses. Ever wonder why the leaves on your vegetable plants molt, curl, wilt, discolor (to yellow or brown), or distort? Or perhaps some plants have low yields, decreased growth rate, or stopped growing all together. That would be the handy work of those small pests. In addition to being so destructive, they reproduce very quickly; female aphids can reproduce without matting and continuously give birth. The little guys mature in a couple of weeks and start produce offspring themselves.

This is where the ladybugs come in: Ladybug meets aphid. Ladybug eats aphid. Plants are protected. Gardener is happy.

The kids love ladybugs because they are colorful, friendly, and patient. Gardeners love ladybugs because they are voracious eaters with BIG appetites. According to National Geographic, by the end of its three-to-six-week life, a ladybug may eat about 5,000 aphids. Go ladybugs go!

So, what did I do to help the ladybugs settle into the culinary garden and not fly off right away? I released them in the middle of the night, over a watered strawberry patch. They are typically active during the day, so this strategy would give them time to settle in, find food and water, and hopefully like their new home.  The morning after the release, I found most of them hanging around the strawberry plants and the herbs. Many of them were already mating.

And so, while many ladybugs will most likely disperse from the garden in a few days, it’s still comforting to know that some will stay and stand guard.

Do you employ the same strategy to combat the aphids?

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