"Nature's Most Charming Pesticide" by Justin Butts

Most of us recognize the softer side of lady bugs, their iconic spots, and their delicate beauty. But lady bugs have an aggressive side, a ravenous appetite, and even their bright colors serve as a warning. Lady bugs are lovely, but they are also ferocious predators.

Lady bugs have sideways-facing jaws like tiny steel traps. They use these powerful jaws to devour hundreds of aphids every day. Aphids are a terrible garden-destroying pest, and a single lady bug can eat more than 5,000 aphids in her lifetime.

Lady bugs lay their eggs in yellow clusters on the undersides of leaves. When the eggs hatch, the babies look nothing like lady bugs, but more like tiny black and orange alligators that scurry across the leaves. These voracious larval lady bugs eat their full weight in aphids every single day as they grow into adults.

When threatened, lady bugs emit a foul-smelling fluid from their leg joints. This toxic secretion, called hemolymph, repels predators. The fiery colors and bright spots on a lady bug’s back are nature’s way of warning enemies that lady bugs are bad to eat. Even the eggs and larva of lady bugs are poisonous to predators.

Typically, the only thing that kills lady bugs is chemical pesticides, which can’t distinguish between good bugs and bad. Unfortunately, pesticides kill lady bugs in their adult as well as their egg and larval stages, so one spray could destroy all the current and potential lady bugs in the garden.

Aphids, on the other hand, are more pesticide-resistant, and aphids reproduce a new generation every week. Without lady bugs to control them, aphids can quickly do enormous damage to your vegetables.

To bring lady bugs to your garden, you can order them over the internet. An insectary will ship a package of living adult lady bugs to your mailbox. Release a few of these lady bugs into the garden each evening at dusk, and store the rest in the refrigerator. If you release the lady bugs all at once, they will swarm into the air and fly straight back to the insectary where they were born, like homing pigeons.

Before releasing them each evening, water your garden and spray a little liquid molasses onto the leaves. This sugary energy will help your lady bugs get started. Re-seed lady bugs into the garden several times until a native population establishes itself.

Lady bugs love the nectar of flowers, and they especially need nectar when laying eggs. Plant flowers generously among your vegetables: Queen Anne’s lace, nasturtiums, cosmos, marigolds, and sunflowers. Plant basil, dill, and cilantro between your vegetables, and let them go to flower. Lady bugs especially love the flowers of bean and pea plants.

Lady bugs are adorable, but they are also voracious predators. They sweetly go about their business of devouring your garden pests. Lady bugs have a well-earned reputation as the gardener’s good friend, and they are nature’s most charming pesticide.

Justin Butts is a local business owner and farmer.

Thank you for viewing this page

WWN's Free Community Newsletter relies on the help of its readers and advertisers to cover overhead costs that enable the WWN to exist. We need your help to continue! Thank you!
You do NOT need a PayPal Account. Use Square

Currently Trending in the Network

Copyright © 2011-2019. All Rights Reserved. Wonderful Women's Network, LLC. Your Community Newsletter Magazine. Committed to news, events, businesses and stories of Rockport-Fulton and Texas Coastal Bend Region. Duplication of content on this site without permission is prohibited by law. Information on this site is time sensitive and for general/entertainment purposes only. Opinion pieces/submitted articles and comments are the thoughts of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the WWN. Paid advertising through the WWN is not available to other general information publications. Always consult a licensed physician before taking medical or health advice. The WWN does not endorse any political party or candidate.