July 5, 2006 > Lovely ladybugs
by Pat Kite
This year, due to a lack of pest insects in my garden, I have few ladybugs. This makes me sad. Ladybugs are my favorite insect. Not only are they cute, but also, being a tad superstitious, I think they are lucky.
In the past, I have actually purchased some Hippodamia convergens ladybugs from a garden store. But now, having become somewhat of a ladybug specialist, it's a no-no. First, semi-demised ladybugs poaching in the sun in mesh bags aren't particularly energetic. Second, in one scientific test, researchers released 400,000 marked ladybugs in a known area. Within three weeks, not one ladybug could be found in the area they were released. Researchers kept looking for them. They finally found 19 of the specially marked ladybugs. They were seven miles from the original release area!
Each ladybug needs to eat 100 pest aphids per day to keep alive. If they are not in your garden, the ladybug will fly away to a better meal site. Perhaps you have lots of aphids on your rose bushes and other plants. You may want to avoid pesticides as they not only kill aphids, but also decimate our already endangered butterfly and bee populations. So, you want to buy a batch of ladybugs.
What to do? Well, give them a fighting chance. Do not keep them in the sun. Keep them cool, not cold. Before releasing ladybugs, cover the designated area with some type of mulch. The mulch gives ladybugs a place to hide. Water that area so it is pleasantly damp. Then release ladybugs in the early evening. If possible, distribute them at the base of infested plants. Container ladybugs are probably half-starved already, so those in relative health will begin eating in early morning. It is fun to see if your aphids disappear.
There are at least 4,500 known ladybug species, or types. About 400 different species are found in North America. Just about wherever ladybugs are found, superstitions occur. If a ladybug lands on your hand and crawls on each finger, that's very lucky. Counting the spots on a ladybug that lands on you will tell you how many happy months are in your future. When a ladybug lands on you, let it fly away on its own. The direction it flies to will be where extra money will come from.
Today I found a young ladybug in my garden. It was feasting on aphids, which were feasting on a weed. Usually I yank out weeds. But I was happy to see this one, and the little ladybug that had flown to my home.
L. Patricia (Pat) Kite's newest book is "Ladybug Facts & Folklore" available at www.Giantstepsbooks.com and www.Amazon.com.