Lady beetles – aka Ladybugs – bugs are one of the most widely used beneficial insects for controlling pests in veggie and herb gardens. They are well known as a generalist predator which means they eat many insect pests, especially aphids and other sap feeders. They also feed on cinch bugs, thrips, whitefly, mites, and other soft-bodied insects. And they are hungry: A single ladybug may eat as many as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.
The adult ladybugs feed on these insects. They also lay their eggs among the aphids or other prey so the emerging larvae can feed on the insects, too.
Adult ladybugs, like many other brightly colored insects, are protected by an odorous, noxious fluid that seeps out of their joints when they are disturbed. The bright body coloration helps some predators (think birds) to remember the encounter and avoid attacking them.
When you release these insect outdoors, make sure there is shade for them. It’s best to release these insects over a period of about a week in the evening. We recommend releasing one third of a container at the base of your plants, waiting about three days, releasing another group the same way. Release the last group a few days after that. If you mist your plants before release, or if there’s been a recent rain, the moisture will entice the ladybugs to stay.
Within eight to 10 days of release, each female ladybug should lay 10 to 50 eggs a day on the underside of leaves. Then within a week the larvae will emerge as dark, creatures with orange spots and they’ll eat 50 to 60 aphids a day.
Apart from aphids, ladybugs need a source of pollen for food and are attracted to specific types of plants. The most popular ones have umbrella shaped flowers such as fennel, dill, cilantro, and yarrow. Other plants that also attract ladybugs include cosmos (especially the white ones), coreopsis, and scented geraniums. You can also promote ladybug populations by not using insecticides.
Photo source: www.ipm.ucdavis.edu