June 17, 2009

Release the Bugs

...the ladybugs, that is! As part of my organic gardening program, I have been researching ways to keep pests away, naturally. One of the peskiest pests to any gardener is aphids, and it just so happens that they are the snack of choice for ladybugs. Because organic gardening is becoming quite popular, the local garden center sells out of the ladybugs quickly. I had to wait almost a week for a new shipment.

The label claimed there were 2000 ladies in this packet, which could include a combination of larvae and adults. And, they are not all ladies, by the way. There are men bugs, (how else would they continue to multiply?), but they are all referred to as ladybugs, or lady beetles, or ladybird beetles. Our packet contained mostly adults, it seemed. Once I cut open the bag, they became very active, so we had to work fast. Eileen and her granddaughter came over to witness the event, which they both thought was fascinating.

The instructions say to release the bugs in the evening when it's cooler, so they will bed down on your plants for the night and not take off. It's also recommended to lightly water your plants before releasing them which serves two purposes - it stirs up any aphids that might be on the plants and it gives the bugs something to drink.

We scattered ladybugs on all four of my garden boxes, a little side garden that Neal planted, and all of our flower beds in the front yard, which include rose bushes, lavender, mint, bee balm, pansies and yarrow. It was fun to watch the bugs explore their new habitats. It is said that one ladybug can eat up to 50 aphids in a day.

I must have checked on my new beneficial bugs about 4 times before going to bed, pleased that there were so many still around. The next morning, I went out another 3-4 times and was even more pleased to see my gardens active with my new-found friends. By the afternoon, however, I could only spot a handful of them, and my heart sank. Did I not have enough aphids or nectar plants for them to feast upon? Did the heat drive them away? Did they find greener pastures across the street in my neighbor's plentiful gardens? I even went so far as to put out liquid nectar and some raisins soaked in water, which were both recommended supplements for the bugs. How dare they flee when I was making such efforts to keep them around! I guess I should be pleased that my plants weren't that infested with nasty critters, but I can't help but feel a little sad. Only time will tell if any of them make their way back to us.


basicliving@backtobasicliving.com said...

Did you happen to get "Stay at Home" ladybugs? I ordered some several years ago, and they really did stay around. For years and years and.... well you get the idea. Once I introduced them, we always had a multitude of them in the garden. I bet you'll be seeing your again soon. I really love lady bugs - and those are great pictures!

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

Ladybugs are useful in the garden, but when they become too plentiful they become a nuisance. We seem to have an excess of them in this area. In the spring when the weather first warms, they are everywhere. You can't walk outside without getting covered with ladybugs. They even invade houses - I've had friends who have had thousands in their houses. I don't know why they are so plentiful here. Someone must have brought some in to feed on the aphids and they thrived.

Jon said...

Hey Cousin,

I have been eyeing the ladybugs as well, but I do not have an aphid problem yet. The method(s) I have use is: 1st cedar mulch it is one of the few things I go out and buy (and it is sad since cedar is a pest tree here in texas.) The cedar tends to keep quite a-lot of bugs away. The second item is garlic pepper tea. There several versions but this is what I use.

Instructions below:

In a blender with water, liquefy 2 bulbs of garlic and 2 cayenne or habanero peppers. Strain away the solids. Pour the garlic-pepper juice into a 1 gallon container. Fill the remaining volume with water to make 1 gallon of concentrate. Shake well before using and add 1/4 cup of concentrate to each gallon of water in the sprayer.
You can make garlic tea by omitting the pepper and add another garlic bulb. Add 1 tablespoon of seaweed and molasses to each gallon of spray.

Every couple of weeks or when I see sign of bad insects, I go spray all my plants.

That came from "Texas organic vegetable gardening" by J. Howard Garrett and C. Malcolm Beck.

There is a ton of information in it, not just about Texas, but of course it is the focus.

basicliving@backtobasicliving.com said...

Sweet Virginia Breeze - maybe it was ME that started the infestation in Virginia!

Actually, I believe what you are seeing is the Asian Lady Beetle, which is different than the Ladybug that Lilla and I are talking about. The differences between them are subtle, but significant. This is a good description of the differences (first couple of paragraphs) http://www.kensavage.com/archives/ladybug-infestations-asian-lady-beetles/ and this one gives good detail about the Asian Lady Beetle. http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/entfacts/ef416.asp
We have infestations of them here too - and the little buggers will bite!

Lilla said...

Penny - no, they weren't Stay at Home bugs. They were Garden Ladys which is what our local nursery carries. Guess I should look into the Stay at Home ones because the ones I got have gone on to greener pastures, it seems!

Sweet Virginia - wow, I've never seen as many ladybugs as you describe! Your story reminds me of the love bugs in Louisiana. They are little black bugs that fly around usually in pairs(hence the name love bugs). They can be so plentiful that it's like driving in rain at times and they get smooshed all over car windows and grills. They only come out at a certain time each year, but when they do - look out!

Hey Cuz - apparently, I don't have an aphid problem either b/c those little buggers didn't stick around long. Thanks for the bug spray recipe. I'll have to give it a try. In the past, I've used a soapy water spray, but yours sounds much more potent!

basicliving@backtobasicliving.com said...

Lilla, if I remember correctly, I got the Stay Home lady bugs from Gardens Alive. I just looked at their website, and they do have them, so I believe that's where I got them. http://www.gardensalive.com/product.asp?pn=5065&ss=lady%20bug if you are interested.

Lilla said...

Thanks for the tip, Penny!

frugalmom said...

Really? Thats what they are called "Stay at Home" bugs. For some reason that makes me laugh.

We have never introduced them to the garden like that, but we seem to have plenty around anyway...but like you said, that may be good and bad...does that mean we have more than enough pesky bugs to make them want to stay? I just try to think that my garden is so delicious that they ALL want to stick around!

Lilla said...

frugalmom, yes, there is a Stay at Home ladybug that Penny referred to, but I didn't know that earlier. And neither did the ladybugs I bought, apprently!

I am sure your garden is quite delicious and all the bugs in the neighborhood want to hang out there.