Have you noticed the presence of small beetles in your garden – those that are brightly-colored and with spots on them? They’re ladybugs, and you don’t need to get rid of them because they’re not pests; rather, they can help you control the pests in your garden.
Ladybugs are often found, in great numbers, on green plants. They eat their way through territories inhabited by aphids and other garden pests, such as the red spider mites. They are numerous in many areas, especially in places where the use of pesticides has been prohibited. For this reason, ladybugs have effectively taken over the function of chemicals in ridding gardens of insects that eat or destroy plants – only, in a natural way.
Ladybugs are present in many places in the world. But because they prefer to live in areas that have a moderate climate, they are particularly plentiful in North America and Europe. In the United States alone, more than one hundred species have been identified. In Europe, most ladybugs are found in tracts of wooded land, abandoned lots, and gardens that have been neglected – places where aphids (the exclusive food of most ladybugs) are found. There is no need for ladybugs to have some sort of special skills to catch aphids as the latter are completely defenseless. Ladybug larvae are known to eat more than adult insects. In situations where aphids are scarce, these larvae will also devour other, smaller ladybug larvae. This somehow ensures ecological balance as there will not be any excessive growth of the ladybug population.
Many gardeners and farmers encourage the growth in numbers of ladybugs. As a matter of fact, many of the ladybug species have been introduced to some agricultural areas of the world for one specific objective: to control pests. Some countries even import and breed ladybugs in farms, and then they sell these to farmers and gardeners. Years ago, one particular ladybug specie that is native to Australia was imported to California which neutralized the cottony cushion scale bug and saved the citrus crops from destruction.
Here are other informative details about ladybugs:
– The female ladybug lays a cluster of eggs as close as possible to aphid colonies. The number of eggs in a cluster can be anywhere between three and three hundred.
– The eggs hatch within about a week. Within the period of approximately two weeks that it takes the larvae to become completely grown, they eat about four hundred aphids.
– Ladybugs can be observed more easily in the summer since they are inactive during the winter. You can find ladybugs in bean plants and cherry trees on which aphids commonly feed. You can watch them even as they feed because they are not affected by the presence of an observer.
– Ladybug species can be identified by the number of their spots. However, not all ladybugs have spots. Other species have stripes instead.
– The bright colors (usually orange and black) of ladybugs are meant to give notice to predators of the insect’s disagreeable taste and thus scare them away.
Different species of the ladybugs are distributed nearly worldwide, but they are especially abundant in temperate climates. At one point, their numbers were severely lessened when farmers decided to use pesticides to destroy aphids. With the banning of the use of pesticides in many areas, the numbers of ladybugs are again increasing. Some species are bred for the purpose of checking the growth of lice in plant nurseries.