The ladybug is a friend to all gardeners. The tiny little insect is a natural predator of insects and larvae that feed on garden produce. The vibrant colors of the beetle makes it easily identifiable in the garden. It is possible to encourage this enemy to insect pests to feed in the garden and help protect the plants there.
The ladybug or lady beetle is a 1/16 to 3/4 inch long round or oval-shaped insect. It is bright red, white, orange or yellow color with black spots on it's shell. Black beetles with yellow spots are also ladybugs. The tiny beetle has legs, antennae and wings. The tiny beetle secretes a smelly liquid from it's joints when it is threatened.
Organic Biological Control
The ladybug is a natural exterminator of the destructive aphid insect. Ladybugs consume 50 to 80 aphids a day, according to online resource Garden Insects. The ladybug eats other troublesome insects and larvae including scale, mealy bug, mites and leaf hoppers. The small beetle is able to eat soft-bodied insects. Ladybug larvae will feed on close to 400 adult aphids during their development stages.
Ladybugs are found throughout the world. At times their population is drastically reduced due to pesticides, according to Garden Insects. A gardener may have to resort to purchasing the beetle. Ladybugs are gathered in the mountains in California and sold to greenhouse and property owners as an organic means to fight destructive insect pests, notes Ohio State University Extension. Colonies of the beetles numbering in the millions live in these mountain areas.
The lifespan of the ladybug beetle moves swiftly. From the time the egg is lain the adult beetle is mature within three to four weeks and up to six weeks in cool climates. The adult ladybug can lay up to 300 eggs in a lifetime. Within three to five days the eggs hatch and the larvae feeds and grows to pupate in two to three weeks. The adult beetle takes seven to 10 days to emerge. The ladybug will provide five to six generations during one summer season.
There is no guarantee that the beetles will stay in the garden once they are released. If at all possible it is best to try to attract native ladybugs into the garden, advises Ohio State University Extension. Plant cosmos, scented geraniums, angelica, tansy and dill for ladybugs to seek out for pollen feedings. Allow dandelion, wild carrot and yarrow to grow in an area on the property for a protected area for ladybugs. Refrain from the use of pesticides which can easily destroy the ladybug population in the area.