Beneficial bugs

September 06, 1998|By Carol Nuckols | Carol Nuckols,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Who needs chemical warfare? Many garden centers carry or will order these beneficial bugs, which will fight your gardening battles for you:

* Ladybugs: Ladybugs love to dine on aphids and other little bugs such as thrips, mealybugs and spider mites. Aphids are those tiny insects that suck the juices out of the tender new leaves on roses, photinias, crape myrtles and other shrubs. Ladybugs come packaged in a mesh bag or a screen-top carton, for approximately $6 to $10 for 1,500 to 2,300 bugs.

To put the ladybugs to work, water the plants where you want them to linger, so they won't fly away in search of a drink. Release them at the base of the plants at dusk or in the cool of the morning. Repeat applications from mid-March through September.

* Trichogramma wasps: Don't confuse these with stinging wasps. They are gnat-like in size, and they don't bother people. They do, however, lay their eggs inside the eggs of such pests as cabbage worms, tomato horn worms and corn-ear worms. When the trichogrammas hatch, they feed on the pests, killing them. Trichogramma eggs come on inch-square cards that look like sandpaper, each holding up to 4,000 eggs. They sell for approximately $6 to $8 per square. Place the cards in the garden or attach them to a nearby tree. Provide moisture.

* Green lacewings: The larvae are sometimes known as aphid lions for their voracious appetites for pests. The microscopic eggs come in a brown paper sack, looking like meal that you sprinkle on your plants. Lacewing eggs sell for approximately $13 to $15 per 1,000 or $25 per 10,000.

* Beneficial nematodes: These microscopic worms prey on the larvae of such insects as fire ants, flies, fleas and grub worms. A package that covers 8,000 square feet contains 12 million nematodes. They look like a mealy substance. Beneficial nematodes sell for approximately $20 to $25 for 7 million to 12 million nematodes.

Soak them in water for 15 or 20 minutes, strain the liquid and apply it to the yard with a watering can or a hose-end sprayer with the screen removed. Keep the lawn moist for a month or so.

* Earthworms: They aerate the soil and enrich it with their castings (droppings).

You can buy either brown-nose manure worms or red wigglers; they come in a bag, bucket or foam cup, along with some soil or compost, for as little as $2 a handful or $14 to $22 per pound.

Keep them moist until you release them. Dig a foot-deep hole in the garden, add a little compost or worm castings, and cover the worms with soil.

Pub Date: 9/06/98

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