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Ladybugs are a big help to organic gardeners because they spend their days eating destructive garden pests, including aphids, whiteflies, cabbage moths, and mites. Thanks to their voracious appetites, ladybugs are considered beneficial insects by gardeners who want to control pest populations without using toxic pesticides.
If you need to boost the ladybug population in your garden, here are five easy ways to encourage these welcome guests to make themselves at home:
#1 Think Organically
Toxic pesticides do not discriminate. They kill beneficial insects just as readily as the negative ones. Therefore, eliminating the use of any type of pesticide in and around your home is a good first step toward attracting more ladybugs to your garden.
#2 Offer Up “Decoy” Plants
Aphids are the primary source of food for ladybugs and they need a steady supply of these pests to survive (and stick around your garden). These opportunistic pests are happy to devour your prized vegetable plants, but they are also attracted to certain plants more than others – such as mustard, nasturtium, marigolds, nettles and calendula.
By planting these “decoy plants” in one section of your garden, you can entice aphids to target them instead of your more desirable plants. This will create a concentrated all-you-can-eat buffet for ladybugs, while diverting aphids away from the rest of your garden.
#3 Plant Ladybug Loving Plants
Although ladybugs prefer to feast on smaller insects, there are plants that attract ladybugs, as well. For example, ladybugs love culinary herbs, such as parsley, dill, and fennel, and flowering plants including angelica, marigolds, sweet alyssum, yarrow, and cosmos. Grow a variety of these plants in and around your garden to entice more ladybugs to stay.
#4 Hook Them Up With Housing
Ladybugs are rather minimalistic creatures in that they don’t require a fancy place to live. Decomposing logs, adequate ground cover, or leafy bushes can serve as a place to hide from predators, while shallow plates of water strategically placed around your garden provide much-needed moisture for them.
However, there is a new trend toward making or having a “bug house.” These houses are meant to attract all sorts of beneficial insects. And think of all the outdoor lessons for the kids too! Fun, yeah?
#5 Purchase Ladybugs
You’ll need a large number of ladybugs to control a large scale aphid infestation. If the natural population in your area is insufficient, you can also purchase ladybugs for your garden.
For best results, keep them refrigerated until you are ready to release them because they do not thrive at room temperature. Also, thoroughly research the seller before you purchase to make sure they don’t have a history of shipping unhealthy specimens.
It’s not so difficult to attract ladybugs to my garden. I think the bigger issue is to attract enough to actually make a difference with my pest problems. Even if I buy them, I want them to stick around so need to make sure I am growing enough plants and providing adequate shelter to encourage them to hang out. I believe this will require a well rounded plan of attack!