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Attract and Keep Ladybugs in the Home Garden

I love ladybugs. I share a lot of photos of these beautiful bad bug-busters frequently because it is important to attract and keep ladybugs in the home garden.

Like this one...

And these guys (look closely)...

And this baby one...

What's so Great About Ladybugs?

Also known as ladybirds and ladybeetles, these round red or orange flying insects do a lot of work for us in the garden. From the moment they hatch, they become feeding machines. Ladybug adults and larvae -- shown above in the third photo -- feast on the eggs and adults of pests including aphids, mites and scales.  To give you an idea of their value in the garden, an adult ladybug can eat over 5,000 aphids over its lifetime!

Getting Ladybugs

Ladybugs are naturally attracted to a healthy garden environment where pesticides and chemical fertilizers are not used, but it can take a long time to attract enough ladybugs to control serious infestations. Some reputable companies, like Gardener's Supply, offer live ladybugs, shipped to your house, to release into your garden. This is a wonderful resource for organic gardeners! One of the things I love about this option is the magic that happens, especially when you have children, when a bunch of ladybugs are released all at once. To me, ladybugs are like real-life fairies... that devour their enemies.

For those who don't want to purchase ladybugs, simply offer them a food source, including nectar, and allow pests to linger while trying to keep them from destroying your crops.

Keeping Ladybugs

These garden beauties only hang around as long as there is a food source and a place to survive the winter. Attract and keep ladybugs in the home garden by offering plenty of readily available nectar. In my garden, yarrow is the overwhelming favorite of ladybugs. I think they like the protection of the thick, frond-like leaves as they emerge at the very beginning of spring, and they hang around for the nectar produced by the blooms which grow from spring to fall. They also really love cilantro and other dense, leafy plantings with small blooms.

The colder the climate, the more important it is to offer shelter for ladybugs in the winter. Keeping the garden mulched throughout winter allows them to overwinter under cover, and attractive insect habitats are available to keep all your beneficial insects around for the following year.

What do you do to attract ladybugs to your garden?



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