Ladybug, Ladybug ...

... Fly Away Home. And Then They Did, Leaving Me With All Those Aphids On My Roses

July 09, 2009|By SUSAN REIMER

Not every garden project is a raging success. If you have been a gardener for more than 10 minutes, you know that.

The ladybug project is one of those not-a-raging-success stories.

The cool and rainy spring brought with it plenty of garden pests, including the aphids that were chewing on my roses and the white flies that were attacking my herbs.

At the suggestion of one of my colleagues, I decided to try the ladybug cure. Her husband had great success releasing ladybugs in his garden. They hung around and multiplied and ate aphids the way Takeru Kobayashi eats hot dogs. One adult ladybug can eat more than 5,000 aphids during its life span.

He had ordered ladybugs through the Internet, but I worried about all that travel time in a box, so I went to a nearby garden center and bought "fresh" ladybugs out of a small refrigerator near the chemical pesticides. This juxtaposition made ladybugs seem that much more earth-friendly.

And these ladybugs were more likely to be "local" and more likely to hang around my garden because they would be consuming a familiar menu of pests.

(The ladybugs were in a refrigerator because they must be kept cool to slow them down. When my daughter found them in our refrigerator later that day, she was horrified.)

Ladybugs need to be released after sundown in a garden that has been lightly watered. That's because they don't fly at night - and birds can't see them to eat them at night - so they are more likely to set up shop in your garden. And misting your garden will give the ladybugs, who are probably very thirsty from their travel, something to drink.

The plastic pint container I purchased had holes and smelled gamy. Turns out, that's what dead ladybugs smell like.

Of the 1,500 ladybugs the container was supposed to hold, perhaps only 12 were still alive - which worked out to about a dollar each.

I'll bet you didn't know that you can return dead ladybugs to the place of purchase. I did, and picked up a replacement container of, it turned out, just as many dead ladybugs. I could have returned to the garden center and asked for my money back, but by this time I was feeling a little ridiculous.

Having failed to find "local" and "fresh" ladybugs that were also alive, I went on the Internet and ordered another 1,300. These ladybugs arrived in a small muslin sack filled with wood shavings that gave the sack structure and the ladybugs room to crawl around.

The ladybugs were very much alive when I released them into the damp garden that night - right on the roses where I was sure a smorgasbord of aphids was waiting.

But the next morning, the ladybugs were gone, possibly because I had passed on the recommendation that I mist them with a mixture of water and Coca-Cola, making their wings too sticky to use.

And I had this vision of the aphids, like the Munchkins in Oz, cheering wildly as the ladybugs flew away on a magic carpet made of dollar bills.

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