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How to Attract Ladybugs to Your Garden

Updated on June 4, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and longtime volunteer at Rutgers Gardens. She also teaches workshops at Home Gardeners School.

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Growing your own food organically is best for your health and the environment, but how do you control destructive insects if you can’t use chemicals? Invite their enemies into your garden. One of the best beneficial insects to have in your garden are ladybugs. They eat aphids, mites, mealybugs, leafhoppers, scales and even powdery mildew.

Are there different kinds of ladybugs?

There are 200 different native species of ladybugs in North America plus Asian ladybugs have hitched rides on international trade goods and are now happily living in our yards. All of them are red or yellow with differing numbers of black spots. But it’s not just the adults that do the most good. The ladybug larvae are voracious consumers of aphids.

Ladybugs lay their orange or yellow eggs in clusters near aphid colonies. The eggs hatch in about a week and the larvae, which resemble tiny black alligators with yellow or orange markings, feed on the aphids until they pupate into adults in about a month. Young larvae eat several dozen aphids per day. Older larvae can consume up to 100 aphids per day.

To have larvae, you need adult ladybugs. To encourage the adults to come to your yard and lay their eggs, provide an attractive environment for them including favorite foods, water and someplace to hide.

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What do ladybugs eat?

Ladybugs love to eat pollen as well as insects. They do have some favorite pollens, so plant a few of the following flowers and herbs in your garden to attract hungry ladybugs to your yard.

Flowers

Sunflowers

Cosmos

Marigolds

Coreopsis

Scented Geraniums

Sweet Alyssum

Herbs

Dill

Angelica

Yarrow

Calendula

Caraway

Tansy

Feverfew

Fennel

Chives

Cilantro

Be sure to leave part of your yard a little “weedy”. Ladybugs also love the pollen of dandelions and Queen Anne’s Lace.

What about water?

It’s tempting to leave a bowl of water outdoors for the ladybugs, but that could attract mosquitoes if not emptied and refilled every day. Plus ladybugs could drown in it if the bowl is too deep. It’s better to use a shallow bowl filled with marbles or small stones to give them something to perch on as they sip the water.

Should I buy a ladybug house?

Don’t waste your money buying or building a ladybug house. Ladybugs don’t nest like some insects but they do need protection from predators such as toads or birds during the day. Provide them with low growing plants such as thyme or oregano or even straw mulch to hide in.

In the winter, ladybugs hibernate. The Asian ladybugs like to hibernate in our warm houses while the native ones hibernate in leaf litter.

Isn't it easier to just buy ladybugs?

Ladybugs that are purchased via mail order are wild caught. Since they are most likely coming from a different part of the country, they may be carrying diseases or parasites that don’t exist in your part of the country. The ladybugs in your area will not have any resistance to these “foreign” diseases and so may die or their lives may be shortened so they will lay fewer eggs, resulting in fewer adult insects. Introducing mail order ladybugs to your yard can actually reduce the local population of ladybugs.

Another problem with wild-caught ladybugs is that they are very often harvested while they are hibernating, so they aren't ready to feed when you release them. They will just fly off no matter how tempting your local aphid population or pollen plants may be.

© 2017 Caren White

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    • OldRoses profile image
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      Caren White 4 months ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Susan, that's fascinating! Thanks for sharing your experience from across the pond. Ladybugs are also called Ladybird beetles here in the US.

    • Susan Hambidge profile image

      Susan Hambidge 4 months ago from Hertfordshire, England

      I am lucky to have quite a number of ladybirds (UK name) on my foxglove plants. They seem to like these flowers, as do the bees. I didn't know they also like marigolds, I will seriously look at adding some of them. Thanks you.