Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Aphids and Ladybugs

We have started seeing aphids on some of our plants so it's time for ladybugs to inhabit the garden. Aphids suck sap out of plants and can cause a myriad of problems for your precious vegetables including yellowing leaves, decreased growth rate, they spread diseases, and they reduce the overall yields that you get off the plants you're counting on for dinner. They are an unwelcome guest in the garden.

Aphids on Voodoo Fuchsia.  
There are many natural ways to go about getting rid of aphids on your plants. One of my preferred methods is simply using a damp paper towel to wipe them off when I see them, which can reduce their numbers significantly. Another way to help reduce their numbers is to spray them off your plants, forcefully with water.

The most fun way to control aphids is probably with ladybugs though, because who doesn't love ladybugs? Lacewings, parasitic wasps, and crab spiders will all eat aphids, but they just aren't as pretty as ladybugs are. If you have enough aphids, chances are that you are going to start seeing ladybugs soon enough, but from a damage prevention standpoint, you do not want to wait until you have a huge infestation to start doing something about them.

There are two ways to purchase ladybugs; you can buy adults or larvae. Adults are cheaper but they are also able to fly away and if you do not have enough food in your garden for them, they most likely will fly away. Buying larvae is much more expensive but the benefit is that they are hungrier than adults and they have not developed wings yet, so they can't pack up and move away on you.

Ladybug larvae from last Summer
Okay, so ladybug babies aren't as pretty as their parents are, but they are a welcome sight in the garden.

Over the weekend, Farmer D and I were at Walter Anderson Nursery, and we spotted some adults for sale, in a refrigerator. I felt bad for the poor ladies so we dropped $6.99 on a container of 1500 of them. I thought we had enough aphids for them, and enough area for them to be happy, long-term in our garden. 

The plants that I was seeing aphids on were our zucchinis, our roses, our passion fruit, a few on our sunflowers, and an ornamental vine, so I focused there when I released them. The instructions said to water the plants well before releasing them so I did, and I released them at the base of the plants, in the early evening when the weather cooled. They quickly migrated up the plants.

Freshly released ladybugs on zucchini
Ladybugs are the most amorous bugs I have ever witnessed in my life, and they immediately started mating, a great sign as far as I was concerned. Some of them also immediately flew off though, which was a little discouraging. This is the third morning since releasing them and now I only see a few around the garden. Hopefully they went to seek out more privacy to continue their mating, but they have never seemed shy before, and I didn't see a single one on the aphid infested fuchsia this morning, so I'm starting to think that my neighbors are going to receive more benefit of the release than I am. 

I'm hoping to see some larvae soon. Next time I feel the need to invest in lady bugs, I will probably invest in larvae from the start. It was fun and I'm happy we at least saved 1500 ladybugs from life in a cup in a refrigerator. 

Gidget is on the lookout.

We'll stay tuned, and keep you posted if we start to see any babies. 



  1. I love Gidgets Garden!

    From the amazing Avocados to the tantalizing Tomato's Gidgets Garden has it all.

    Over the past year I have been lucky enough to sample her Peas, Beans, Cucumbers, Tomato's, Peppers, Spinach, Avocados, Lettuce, Sunflowers, Strawberries, Radishes, Lemons, Zucchini, Artichokes, Pumpkins, Watermelons and more.

    I had no idea the difference in flavor from organic grown compared to store bought produce would be so dramatic!

    Thanks for all you do to share your knowledge in growing organics in an urban setting.. I can't wait to get started on my own Gidgets Garden!

  2. That wouldn't happen to be MY Voodoo Fuchsia would it?!?!?!?

  3. Hi Maria, we have a Voodoo too - it's hanging on the front porch, this one was mine so rest easy, I didn't see any aphids on yours.

  4. Just wondering if you have seen any of your Ladies in the past day or so? Sounds like fun to save 1500 Lady Bugs. I'm curious what the price difference was for the adult Ladies compared to the Larvae?

  5. We haven't had trouble with aphids, so I haven't thought too much about buying ladybugs. I've read about the possibility of them just flying away when they're released, and now that I've read your firsthand account, I'd definitely decide to buy larvae instead. Thanks for the great information, Crystal!