I’m not sure why, but this year there seems to be a bumper crop of aphids. Especially on the roses. Maybe it’s because we had a mild-ish winter. Or maybe because it was a wet-ish spring. Whatever the conditions, the aphids seem to be thriving and happily sucking the very gorgeousness from my rose buds.
To fight back at assaults from the insect world, I use many organic pest control methods in the garden, and many of them are in the form of herbs. Oregano and Thyme repel cabbage moths from cabbage and broccoli, Lavender discourages mice and attracts butterflies, Mints are natural ant deterrents. Companion planting, picking bugs off plants by hand, or spraying the plants and offending pests with soap are all great organic pest control options for smallish plantings.
But having something else do the work is a stellar option for over committed gardeners with larger garden spaces to supervise. And for aphid control, nothing cleans house quicker than unleashing the mighty ladybug.
Ladybugs are voracious eaters, they don’t bite and they don’t eat my radishes, making them welcome guests in my garden. Instead, they dine on aphids, spider mites, thripes and white flies at the rate of approximately 80/day. It’s a way more efficient pest control method than picking unwanted bugs hand, that’s for sure. Encouraging ladybugs to thrive is one of the many good reasons not to use toxic pesticides. Those bug poisons don’t know the good bugs from the bad, and they end up killing creatures in the waterways where they eventually end up.
I’ve heard many people complain that they enlisted the assistance of ladies in red only to have them fly away instantly after being released. I’ve learned a trick or two to entice them to linger long enough to establish residency in my garden to help control unwanted populations of pests. After having been released to dine in my garden, these scarlet champions have tidied up my rosebuds in nothing flat.
The first rule of thumb is to buy ladybugs that have been properly cared for before you get them. To keep them dormant or hibernating, it’s important to keep them cool before they are released. So don’t buy ladybugs that have been sweating it out in an outdoor nursery with temperatures over about 45 degrees. If they have lingered in the heat, many of them may have already met their demise.
Second, ladybugs prefer a proper invitation to stay. Since they have been without sustenance for however long before they are released, they will be both hungry and thirsty. So before releasing them, spray the area (like the rose beds) with water so they will be able to rehydrate before they begin their quest for the cuisine du jour.
And third, just like with a cat you move from one house to another, don’t bring ladybugs to their new environs and just let them go, or they will fly away looking for their home. Instead, release them at night, preferably in the dark when they are sleeping. In the morning, they will wake up, stretch their however-many little legs and be welcomed to their new home with a refreshing beverage, and a feast of Aphids Al Fresco.