Ladybugs are bright red beetles measuring between 1/16 to 3/8 of an inch long. They are a gardener’s best friend, as they devour harmful insects that will kill or damage your flowers, shrubs and trees. If you want thriving plants, encourage these insects to make your garden their home.
Keeping Your Garden Free of Aphids
Aphids are a ladybug's favorite meal. Aphids are 1/8 of an inch long and frequently infest vegetable or flower gardens. They most commonly attack cabbage, beans, melons, tomatoes, squash and pumpkins. They can infest decorative trees and shrubs including ash, birch, maple, walnut, elm and birch trees. Aphids suck the sap out of plants, causing them to become lifeless, dull and unhealthy. A single ladybug can consume 50 to 60 aphids per day and a total of 5,000 in a lifetime.
Eliminating Scale Insects
Scale insects often infest trees and shrubs, but are never found on vegetable plants. These pesky insects are immobile most of their lives. They create a circular, waxy covering for themselves. They nest under this covering, sucking the juice out of the plant. Commonly infested plants include azalea, birch, juniper, yew and honeydew. Ladybugs feast on scale insects, eliminating them from your garden or orchard.
Banishing Spider Mites
Spider mites are another deadly predator to every garden enthusiast. These tiny creatures measure only 1/20 to 1/60 of an inch long, making them difficult to spot before the damage is done. Spider mites poke tiny holes in the leaves of plants, consuming the leaf tissue and fluid. Infested plants dehydrate, becoming dry and brittle. Spider mites commonly infest melons, beans, squash, peas, strawberries, tomatoes and house plants. Ladybugs will eat spider insects if there is no other prey available.
Attracting the Ladies
During medieval times, local farmers believed heaven sent ladybugs to protect their crops from predatory insects. To keep your flower or vegetable garden or fruit trees healthy and free from pests, create a friendly environment that attracts ladybugs. Avoid spraying chemicals or pesticides in your garden, as this will keep ladybugs away. Cultivate plants that attract ladybugs, including fennel, caraway, dill, cilantro, yarrow, tansy and dandelions. Ladybugs can be purchased commercially and released into your garden. Be sure to set up a friendly environment, otherwise they will fly away. Release the ladybugs into a garden containing aphids or other insects that will serve as food. Soak the soil and plants with water. Wait till dusk and then allow the ladybugs to explore your garden for the first time. Since ladybugs do not fly at night, this will ensure that they will at least check out your garden before taking off -- and hopefully they will like what they see and stay awhile.
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