Ladybug, the assistant gardener

A ladybug on a blade of grass with its legs tucked in under it.

The Good Lord’s beetle is an incredible bug that feeds on aphids. It is the best of the gardener’s friends.

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Ladybug and treatment

An ant, a colony of aphids and a ladybug next to each other on a plant.In organic gardening, animals that help you grow things without damaging anything are called “beneficial” animals or insects. Pollinators and predators are some of these. “Predator” is what best describes the 80+ species of ladybugs present in temperate climates. Each can be distinguished from the next thanks to its size, color, and dots that form a pattern on their elytra, which is what the wing cases are called. These wing cases are actually the front pair of wings, and the back pair is the pair doing the flying.

The most common ladybug is the one with seven dots. It is very common in vegetable patches and around wild plants. The ladybug with two dots is often found around fruit trees and shrubs. The yellow ladybug with 14 dots appreciates vegetables, whereas the red one with 22 dots is regularly sighted around wild flowers like dandelions. Most species feed on aphids, but others indulge in scale insects or mites and ticks.

Ladybug lifecycle

Ladybugs live for one to three years depending on the variety. They reappear in the garden in spring, when temperatures cross the 55°F (12°C) threshold. They spend the winter hibernating, hiding in tree bark, dead leaves, etc. They reproduce and lay eggs from April to May. The eggs – 500 to 1,000 for a single ladybug – are laid on plants in small clusters right among the aphid colonies. After a few days, they hatch to set larvae free. These are voracious eaters, gobbling up to 100 aphids a day apiece! Three weeks later, the larva transforms into a nymph, and metamorphosis leads it to become a yellow ladybug. The wing cases need an additional 24 hours to turn red.

To have ladybugs in your garden, no need to purchase them in your local horticulture store*. Simply practice farming without any chemical products, and don’t eliminate all the wild plants that typically attract aphids away from your own cultures. The ladybugs will follow.

* Those ladybugs sold there are usually native to Asia, and are quite invasive; they tend to crowd out local species.

Laure Hamann