Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ladybugs and their incarnations

Ladybugs are such voracious aphid eaters that many of us go to nurseries early in spring for the sole purpose of purchasing a container of these pretty little bugs for our gardens. Unfortunately, we often release them as soon as we arrive home, which is the absolute wrong tactic to use. What normally happens is they will flit around in your yard for awhile and next morning you will discover they have moved next door to your neighbor's yard.

Here is how to assure you keep the majority of your precious purchase in your own yard: When you get home from the nursery, put the container of ladybugs in your refrigerator and then go outside and water your garden thoroughly. Enjoy the day while you wait for dusk to release your ladybugs because ladybugs do not fly at night. That, combined with the water that you have supplied, will guarantee they stay in your yard. By evening they will be very thirsty. Release them in several areas of your garden, close to plants that aphids tend to like the most, but also tucked away a bit so that larger predators won't spot them. Next morning you will discover your ladybugs already at work throughout your garden, finding their mates and preparing to lay their eggs right in the middle of an aphid colony.

Speaking of larvae, if you see a creature resembling the blue and orange one in the picture, don't squish it! That is ladybug larva about to munch down on a lot of aphids. The larvae or pupae may look exactly like this or may have more or less orange or yellow or more or less black, blue or purple. It may be a little longish or more roundish, but it will be very similar to the picture. The larvae will consume vast quantities of aphids for several weeks before entering its pupa stage for about a week, after which it will emerge as a brand new ladybug! Brand new ladybugs often do not have spots for several days, so if you see a plain red or orange hardshell that could be a ladybug if only it had spots, it probably is!

This is a welcome sight in any garden. It is a ladybug egg cluster. Note that it is on the backside of a leaf and that the eggs are slightly elongated and stand on end. Be watchful as you go about your garden so if you spot eggs like these, you will remember their location and be careful not to dislodge them.

Remember, aphids are a ladybugs favorite food!

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