The Joy of Releasing Ladybugs– And How To Do It With Lil’ Sprouts
Growing up, releasing ladybugs was always one of my favorite things to do in the spring. Ladybugs were magical to me, kept cold and dormant in a refrigerator at the nursery, waiting to be brought home. They were like something out of a fairytale, waiting for their Prince Charming in the form of sunshine and warm air to become the protectors of our yard.
For kids, ladybugs are a playful addition of the garden, with their fairy-like origins and associations with good luck; there’s something exciting about unexpectedly finding one. For gardens, of course, ladybugs are good luck. As an essential part of integrated pest management, ladybugs prey on aphids and other destructive garden insects. Just be sure when purchasing ladybugs that you look for farm-raised lady bugs or ones from a local area, as wild-caught ladybugs can introduce parasites if they are shipped in from other areas.
How to Release Lady Bugs
The best time to release ladybugs is in the early evening after you’ve recently watered, when there’s still moisture in the dirt and water on the leaves. You can also add a little water with a mister to the area after the bugs have been released, if it is especially hot out. If you’re not planning on releasing your ladybugs immediately, mist them and keep them in the fridge (not the freezer). While you can keep ladybugs in the fridge for up to a month (between temperatures of 35ºF and 40ºF), make sure you keep them hydrated and remember that keeping ladybugs in the fridge will shorten their life out in the garden.
When releasing the ladybugs, spread them throughout your yard. (If you are releasing large quantities of ladybugs, consider releasing them over the course of a week.) Leaving them all in the same place at the same time ups competition for food, and makes them more likely to leave the area in search of easier prey. If you have any plants that are suffering from aphids, leave ladybugs in those areas, at the base of the plants. (Plants that tend to attract aphids are marigolds, nasturtiums, roses, and radishes.)
Short of caging them, there is very little control you can have over keeping ladybugs in your yard. If they do leave– though it is a little sad– it probably means your garden is in good health, and is free of pests.