Did you know you can order ladybugs on the Internet? Crazy, I know.
Ever since buying a home, I’ve been interested in trying to learn about natural remedies to everyday problems. Last summer my husband noticed aphids hurting the new growth on his red tip photinia shrubs.
He tried eliminating the aphids with blasts of water form the hose and later a Rose Pharm spray made of essential oils that a local independent nursery recommended. One liter of the spray, while effective, was not a match for the 24 aphid-infested red tips. Spraying for aphids like that is tedious and repetitive, and he understandably missed a few of their favorite spots, so the job was never done.
Before the first day of spring was here this year, we noticed aphids on a few red tips and on my mealy blue sage perennials that were coming up. With a recent Arbico Organics catalog on the counter, I saw a solution that looked easier – releasing ladybugs, natural aphid predators and a common beneficial insect, in our yard.
How It Works
For $12.95 plus shipping you can get 1,500 ladybugs (the smallest size available from this company) delivered to your door. Since they’re mailing live insects, you must choose two-day shipping. My total was $34.27.
Edit added April 13, 2016: After my ladybug fun, my grandmother purchased some. She then informed me that she got a better deal when she purchased hers for about $10 at Calloways. It’s a good idea to check with your local nurseries when you need anything for your garden.
Other companies sell ladybugs, possibly even a store in your area, but past purchasing experiences coupled with convenience led to my decision to purchase again from Arbico.
The bugs come in a sack with a twine/straw-like string tangled inside to provide a structure for the insects to crawl on.
The instructions tell you to allow the bugs to adjust to room temperature. If you don’t plan on releasing them that day, then sprinkle the sack with water so they can rehydrate, wait for the sack to dry and then place in the fridge. The low temperature in a controlled environment slows their metabolism and extends the amount of time they can be without food.
Ours arrived after dusk when the temperatures were going into the 40s or 50s at night and then into the 60s or 70s during the day. Since we were going to release the next day, we didn’t see any point in putting them in the fridge, which sits at 38°F, only to put them in a much warmer environment within the next 24 hours. We “watered” them and left them on the porch.
Of course there were helpful instructions for this adventure. Here are the highlights:
- If you put them in the fridge, allow for several hours of climate adjustment before letting them go (my tip).
- Spray or sprinkle the plants you put the ladybugs on with water first, so they can rehydrate in their new home.
- Try to release them at dusk to give the ladybugs a chance to adapt to their new home. We disobeyed this directive for our first release, doing it shortly after dawn, but did follow it for our last two releases. Temperatures were still relatively mild (no higher than 73°F) for ladybugs, who thrive from 60°F to 80°F.
- Put them on plants with food.
- Release them in amounts from a tablespoon to small handful onto plant foliage. I laughed at this recommendation after our first release. How exactly do you corral just the right amount of ladybugs out of the bag? Still have no answer for this.
- Release ladybugs every other day for best results.
Being ladybug release beginners, we opened the bag and encouraged them to crawl directly onto leaves of aphid-infested plants. As you can imagine, this was an entertaining strategy. Also, ladybugs don’t pour out of the bag, as my husband tried in jest.
The insects seemed to crawl in the opposite direction of where you wanted them to go. Occasionally it did work out.
When you’ve released enough for the day, you have to close the bag with the other ladybugs hurrying toward daylight without crushing them. Of course they always seem to find a tiny opening you didn’t realize was there. But we were able to do it.
After our first application, we decided to refrigerate our insects because we wouldn’t have the opportunity to apply them for a few days.
After an hour of warming up, I set a few more free one late afternoon by myself. It wasn’t as warm, and the insects didn’t seem too determined to leave, probably because the temperature was in the 50s and they recently came out of the fridge.
Then, my husband and I did one more application together, this time at dusk. We removed them from the refrigerator the day before and it was around 70°F at dusk, so the ladybugs were much more active and excited to escape the bag.
With so much energy on their part, we left the bag in a few different areas for a minute each, but there were still lots of bugs in there! Ready to be done, I held the bag by one of the corners and gently shook some out on all the shrubs in my yard. When I was finished, I left the bag in the flowerbed so any stragglers could get out that night.
After we were done with our three applications, I called the Arbico customer service line to find out more specific instructions for release. Turns out they recommend the shaking method to get the bugs out. I asked if they would be hurt by the fall – you can definitely hear them scatter like rain – but they assured me that ladybugs are tough.
My response to this: But our way is much more fun! 🙂
We are so pleased with our ladybugs. Here’s why:
- All our aphids appear to be gone, most of them after the first release.
- Our plants are looking fantastic.
- We did this with minimal effort.
- We didn’t have to use any dangerous chemicals or clean up any messes.
- We have an entertaining adventure to tell our friends and family about.
More About Ladybugs
According to Arbico Organics:
- Each adult ladybug eats about 5,000 aphids in its lifetime
- Within 8-10 days of release, each female lays about 10-50 eggs daily on the undersides of leaves.
- The eggs stay still for 21 days until they pupate, which is another still state where they undergo the transformation from
Other pests ladybugs eat include:
- Beetle larvae
- Alfalfa weevils
- Other soft-bodied insects and eggs
Are ladybugs right for your yard? Once the temperature gets to be around 90°, it’s hard to entice the ladybugs to stick around. If it’s already that temperature, Arbico recommends green lacewings, which are also called “Aphid Lions.”
Photo credits: Lindsey Perkins Wade / Sustaining Texas, with the help of Brandon Wade Photography