Last week, I showed how you can make natural pesticides for your plants. While these sprays pose less risk than the toxic ones, they also rid your plant of beneficial insects like the ladybug. Unlike most pesky bugs that you want to purge from your garden, ladybugs live up to their cute little name. They pose no harm and are actually beneficial to your plants by feasting on a few of your plant's nemeses such as aphids, mealybugs, leaf hoppers, scales and mites.
Along with insects, ladybugs also look for pollen for a food source, so there are numerous plants you can grow to help attract them. Flowers and herbs such as cilantro, dill, fennel, caraway, yarrow, tansy, angelica, scented geraniums, coreopsis and cosmos are good choices for luring the ladybug.
If you're still having trouble attracting the little buggers into your garden, you might want to consider buying ladybugs to release in your garden. Yes, most speciality garden stores carry them, or you can easily order them online. A simple search will turn up a slew of stores. Since they won't all stay put in your garden, it's smart to purchase more than you will need. The best ladybug species for the garden are Hippodamia Convergens. These ladybugs are defined by the two white marks that are on their backs above the wings. This type of native ladybug will eat tons of aphids in no time and are preferred over the Asian ladybug, Harmonia Axyridis. While the Asian ladybug is very effective for keeping down aphids, this non-native species prefers warmer temperatures and is the primary cause of ladybug infestations inside the home.
When it comes time to release them into your garden, make sure you follow the instructions that come with the ladybugs to help boost your chances that they'll want to make your garden their home. And to make your garden even more appealing to these beneficial insects, you can make the easy ladybug feeder shown above.
What You Need
Bamboo, about 10" in length by 1 1/2" - 2" in diameter.
Garden twine or chain
1. Gather your materials and tools.
2. Measure your bamboo. I marked mine at 10".
3. After you've made your mark, use your pencil to draw a line tapering the end at an angle. This will provide a sort of umbrella to keep the rain out of your ladybug feeder.
4. Use your saw to cut the line at the angle, being careful not to spilt your bamboo.
5. Do the same thing on the opposite end and then you're left with the finished bamboo. If your ends are really sharp or jagged, you can gently sand them with a piece of sandpaper.
6. Use your drill to drill holes just slightly bigger than the twine you're using.
7. Insert twine ends through the holes, making a double knot on each end.
8. Hang your ladybug feeder and insert a couple of raisins into the bamboo feeder. The raisins will draw the ladybugs to the feeder and feed them if aphids or other insects are scarce.
9. I chose to hang mine close to a food source, situating my feeder on a hook between my rose bushes, since they are notorious aphid attracters.
Additional Notes: Your twine should last through the season but might need to replaced yearly.
(Images: 1, flickr member Shelley & Dave, licensed for use under Creative Commons; 2-10, Kimberly Watson)