As all good gardeners know, pests such as aphids, mealybugs and other revolting nuisances can’t be allowed to feast on our plants at their pleasure. Yet, extinguishing them with an ozone-depleting chemical spray isn’t an option either – maybe 20 years ago, but not now.
Some have even attempted their own spray concoctions: two liverwort petals, a clove of petrified garlic, a dried toad’s leg, all blended with a cup of Absinthe (mmm…on second thoughts replace with stale beer: keep the Absinthe for a necessary nightcap). But soon you realise that most ‘natural’ sprays are completely ineffective.
If the aphids in your garden have gained more territory than they should it might be time to bring in a few reinforcements – 1500 live ladybugs (aff.) might do the trick.
As ladybugs are natural predators towards aphids and mealybugs it makes sense to stock your garden with more of them and leave nature to do what it does best.
The trick is trying to find these companions of our gardens. The lifecycle of aphids compared to ladybugs is much faster allowing the aphids to get a good head start on their dinner guests. By the time ladybugs have hatched and grown to maturity most of your roses and citrus plants are inundated with an infestation of epic proportions.
So it’s great to see that Amazon.com are now stocking these helpful bugs. It will make pest control much easier in our gardens by getting the upper-hand before our unwanted insects devour our favourite plants.
Trey, from The Blogging Nurseryman, commented yesterday that his nursery had stopped selling this product and quotes this article [link since removed] as one of the reasons.
I set off to find out the deeper issues and after reading the article I came out with more questions than answers. Here’s the quote that perplexed me;
My research has shown the following: With the best of intentions, you purchase a package of 1000 ladybugs. By the time you get it home at least 300 have perished, leaving at most 700. So now you follow the instructions telling you to release them at night, at the base of an aphid infested plant, but actually you let them out just after sundown so you and your family can watch the action. Many take to the sky in search of food or love within 10 minutes, leaving you with 200 rather sluggish ladybugs. Of these, many will eat up to 7 times their body weight in aphids each day, which is not bad until you calculate the reproductive rate of aphids. Alas, within one week you will be left with not one living ladybug. None…zero.
And these are the reasons why;
- Firstly, I’m sure that when people buy insects in these quantities they do so because they expect that a good proportion aren’t going to make it. While 1500 ladybugs in the garden would be an awesome sight, I’m not sure that number would hang around my garden for long anyway.
- If the user has been informed to release them at night and does so at another time, is that the (a) producer’s fault, (b) ladybug’s fault, or (c) the user’s fault?
- Why will there be no ladybugs left after a week? The ladybug has a lifespan of between 1-2 years and their lifecycle only takes 4-8 weeks to regenerate.
I’m guessing that if I had no ladybugs after a week then I would also assume that I had no aphids left either. And isn’t that the reason you bought them in the first place?
- The article also seems to highlight that there will only be “200 sluggish” ladybugs left. Okay, so we’re working with a 20% survival rate. Therefore, one would assume that you would have 100 more remain from a box of 1500.
That means you will have 300 ladybugs in your garden. Have you ever, at any time, seen 300 ladybugs in your garden? I think the most I’ve ever seen could be counted on one hand.
- And finally, while this article seems to mock the use of ladybugs as an effective aphid repellant they don’t offer any other alternatives. Why? Because there aren’t any. For less than $10 you could quite conceivably put a serious dent in any aphid infestation.
Sure they won’t hang around after the job’s done but who cares. The job’s done.