The Ladybug: A Yard — s Friend or Foe
Why It’s Good (And Bad) To Have Ladybugs In Your Yard
- 1 Why It’s Good (And Bad) To Have Ladybugs In Your Yard
- 2 Your Lawn’s New Best Friend: The Ladybug
- 3 4 Tips To Attract Ladybugs To Your Yard
- 4 So… Are There Any Reasons To Not Have Ladybugs Around Your Lawn?
- 5 Ladybug, the assistant gardener
- 6 Ladybug and treatment
- 7 Ladybug lifecycle
- 8 Identifying and Controlling Aphids
- 9 Aphid Life Cycle
- 10 Signs of Aphid Infestation
- 11 Effect on Garden Plants
- 12 Organic Controls for Aphids
- 13 If You Use Chemical Solutions
- 14 Good vs. Bad Ladybugs in Your Garden and How to Tell the Difference
- 15 Ladybugs Are Always Hungry!
- 16 The Good.
- 17 The Four Stages of the Life Cycle Start Here
- 18 Don’t Be Alarmed When You See This Guy!
- 19 Even the Pupa Stage Can Look a Bit Alarming
- 20 But Eventually, the Ladybug Will Look Something Like This
- 21 The Bad.
- 22 The Bad Guy
- 23 The Bright.
- 24 But Never, Ever Ugly!
- 25 Have You Ever Released Ladybugs into Your Garden to Control the Pests?
- 26 Questions & Answers
- 27 Related
- 28 Popular
- 29 Comments
- 30 Know Your Garden’s Insect Friends and Foes
Known for its red back and black spots, the ladybug is one of the most well-known beetles in the insect community. However, a ladybug isn’t just a bug, and it isn’t always red and black! Sometimes they’re orange-red, yellow, grey or even completely black. They may not even have spots!
So before ladybug facts get too confusing, we want to take the time to educate you on the good (and the bad) ladybugs you may encounter. We’ll also explain what positive, or negative, affects ladybugs may have on your lawn or garden.
Your Lawn’s New Best Friend: The Ladybug
Contrary to popular belief, a ladybug isn’t actually a bug—it’s a beetle. And as we mentioned before, a ladybug isn’t always red and black! So before you start killing off unknown beetles in your lawn or garden, take a few minutes to get to know the ladybug.
Many species of ladybugs are actually quite helpful for your lawn. Two species in particular, Harmonia axyridis and Hippodamia convergens , are known as “beneficials”. Both of these species are known to eat aphids, among other lawn-harming insects, which can greatly benefit the health of your lawn—hence the name beneficials.
The Trouble With Aphids
Aphids are tiny, soft-bodied insects that suck the sugar-rich fluids from plant hosts. In more generic terms, aphids suck the sap out of your plants, causing stress and plant damage.
Even more, aphids secrete “honeydew”, a sugary substance that can cause fungus to grow on your plants. This fungus is extremely harmful to plants, and may even attract ants due to its sugary nature.
The Benefit of Ladybugs
This is when it pays off to have ladybugs around! Ladybugs are fondly referred to as the “Tyrannosaurus Rex” of the insect world—they are predatory beetles.
So, if you notice aphids snacking on your plants, you may want to consider adding or attracting ladybugs to your garden or lawn. The ladybugs will eat the aphids, resulting in less damage and stress to your precious plants. That way, the ladybugs are full and your plants are safe—win-win!
Think you may have something else besides aphids munching on your plants? Take a moment to read our blog: What Pest Is Snacking On Your Plants?
4 Tips To Attract Ladybugs To Your Yard
Maybe you’ve been thinking of adding ladybugs to your lawn or garden but aren’t sure of the best way to do it. To help, here are four ways to attract ladybugs to your yard:
1. Do not use chemicals
Refrain from using chemicals of any kind on your lawn, plants or garden. These will deter ladybugs, or even harm them, preventing them from doing their job to protect your yard.
2. Give them plenty to drink
Make sure you have plenty of water on or near your plants to quench your ladybug’s thirst. Try setting out a small bowl of water with pebbles inside so they have a place to safely rest while taking a drink. After all, you don’t want them flying into a nearby water source like a birdbath or fountain and getting stuck or dying!
Just be careful to not add too much moisture. Excess moisture may attract pests such as termites or mosquitoes to your yard or garden—neither of which you’ll want around your home!
3. Offer plants with lots of pollen and nectar
While ladybugs are predators, it’s actually their larvae that do most of the aphid-eating! Feed adult ladybugs by giving them plants with plenty of pollen and nectar. If the adults have an abundance of food and water, they’ll want to stick around—therefore meaning more ladybug babies and fewer aphids.
Please note: Ladybug larvae do not resemble ladybugs at all. They are actually quite spiny, and a little scary looking. Familiarize yourself with ladybug larvae before introducing ladybugs to your lawn or garden. You don’t want to kill them by accident!
4. Buy ladybugs
Last but not least, you can always go the easy route and buy ladybugs. While there are easier ways to maintain a healthy lawn all year long , you may opt for purchasing ladybugs instead. If you decide to do this, follow these tips to make sure ladybugs stick around:
- Release ladybugs during the evening. If you release ladybugs during the day, they will fly away—ladybugs don’t fly at night.
- Make sure there is plenty of water on your lawn or garden. If your lawn or garden is dry, ladybugs will fly away.
- Give ladybug larvae plenty to eat—no aphids means no ladybugs! Make sure you’re releasing ladybugs into an area with an excess amount of aphids.
Pro Tip: When purchasing ladybugs, verify the size of your lawn or garden where ladybugs are needed to make sure you buy the right amount. You don’t want too little, or too many, ladybugs around your yard.
When trying to attract ladybugs, you may attract other beneficial, too! Some common ones you may want around your lawn are lacewings, mini-wasps and assassin bugs. All of these insects, plus many more, are not interested in harming you or your home—they just want to eat the pests that do!
Like ladybugs, lacewings will eat aphids and other pests that threaten your yard. Mini-wasps target caterpillars and assassin bugs are known to eliminate a common enemy to your lawn: the Japanese beetle .
So… Are There Any Reasons To Not Have Ladybugs Around Your Lawn?
In short, yes. Earlier we talked about the many different species of the ladybug. One subfamily, Epilachninae , is known to actually eat your plants, rather than pests. This serves as a reminder to always double check your species before introducing ladybugs into your yard!
Speaking of species, there is another ladybug foe you won’t want around your home—the Asian Lady Beetle.
Asian Lady Beetle vs. Ladybug
While an Asian Lady Beetle can still be beneficial to your lawn, there are quite a few reasons this beetle isn’t an ideal fit for your lawn or garden.
Like the ladybug, an Asian Lady Beetle eats aphids—approximately 5,000 of them in its lifetime, actually! However, Asian Lady Beetles have been known to bite humans when they feel threatened, or even come in contact with your skin. While the bite of a tiny beetle may not sound threatening, their bite may cause an allergic reaction in some people, so always be cautious.
Ladybugs and Asian Lady Beetles are difficult to tell apart since they generally look the same. The easiest way to distinguish them, though, is by the “M” or “W” shaped mark behind the Asian Lady Beetle’s head. Try to keep this mark in mind when deciding if your ladybug look-alike is a friend or foe!
Unlike the ladybug, however, Asian Lady Beetles are known to crawl through cracks in your home to get inside, especially during the fall and winter months. Not only will they leave behind an unsettling odor , but they will also begin to multiply and infest your home.
In large numbers, Asian Lady Beetles can sometimes cause severe allergic reactions that will require medical attention. These reactions can be serious, so always check the outside of your home for cracks or holes that may be giving pests like the Asian Lady Beetle a way inside.
Want A Healthy Lawn? Skip The Ladybugs and Call Killingsworth
There’s no denying the benefits of ladybugs. They truly are one of the greatest predators in the insect community that won’t harm your yard or home (as long as it’s the right species!). However, attracting enough ladybugs to your yard can be a struggle, and it isn’t always the best idea to buy ladybugs online. Plus, you don’t want to accidentally attract harmful pests to invade your yard and home!
So skip the ladybugs, and leave the lawn care to the experts at Killingsworth! We specialize in lawn care and pest control , so we’ll do our best to keep your lawn healthy and pest-free all year long.
After all, do you really want to trust a beetle to maintain your lawn? No! So don’t wait, give us a call today so we can talk about our organic Lawn Care Packages that will work best for your lawn—with or without ladybugs!
Think you may have more than just ladybugs crawling around your lawn? Download our free Pest Encyclopedia below to learn more about the pests you may have around your home, as well as our treatment and control options!
Ladybug, the assistant gardener
The Good Lord’s beetle is an incredible bug that feeds on aphids. It is the best of the gardener’s friends.
Ladybug and treatment
In organic gardening, animals that help you grow things without damaging anything are called “beneficial” animals or insects. Pollinators and predators are some of these. “Predator” is what best describes the 80+ species of ladybugs present in temperate climates. Each can be distinguished from the next thanks to its size, color, and dots that form a pattern on their elytra, which is what the wing cases are called. These wing cases are actually the front pair of wings, and the back pair is the pair doing the flying.
The most common ladybug is the one with seven dots. It is very common in vegetable patches and around wild plants. The ladybug with two dots is often found around fruit trees and shrubs. The yellow ladybug with 14 dots appreciates vegetables, whereas the red one with 22 dots is regularly sighted around wild flowers like dandelions. Most species feed on aphids, but others indulge in scale insects or mites and ticks.
Ladybugs live for one to three years depending on the variety. They reappear in the garden in spring, when temperatures cross the 55°F (12°C) threshold. They spend the winter hibernating, hiding in tree bark, dead leaves, etc. They reproduce and lay eggs from April to May. The eggs – 500 to 1,000 for a single ladybug – are laid on plants in small clusters right among the aphid colonies. After a few days, they hatch to set larvae free. These are voracious eaters, gobbling up to 100 aphids a day apiece! Three weeks later, the larva transforms into a nymph, and metamorphosis leads it to become a yellow ladybug. The wing cases need an additional 24 hours to turn red.
To have ladybugs in your garden, no need to purchase them in your local horticulture store*. Simply practice farming without any chemical products, and don’t eliminate all the wild plants that typically attract aphids away from your own cultures. The ladybugs will follow.
* Those ladybugs sold there are usually native to Asia, and are quite invasive; they tend to crowd out local species.
Identifying and Controlling Aphids
Charles Krebs / Getty Images
Garden aphids, also known as plant lice, include many different species in the Aphidoidea insect family. Aphids are very small–roughly 1/10th of an inch long. Their most common colors are green and black, though brown, reddish-brown, and gray aphids inhabit some parts of the country. They have two long tubular appendages on the tail end of their bodies.
Aphid Life Cycle
Aphid eggs overwinter attached to plants, then hatch as nymphs in the spring. These nymphs then produce eggs asexually, producing more nymphs that grow to maturity in just one week. Then, in the fall the nymphs will lay eggs that contain some male aphids. These males then mate with the nymphs to produce the eggs that will overwinter and start the next generation of aphids. Mature aphids lay three to six eggs per day. The rapid asexual reproduction cycle during the growing season is what leads to the rapid and widespread infestation so familiar to many gardeners.
Signs of Aphid Infestation
Aphids suck the sap out of tender plant’s shoots and leaves using beak-like mouths, injecting the leaves with their saliva as they do so. The damage to plants is twofold: drinking the sap can weaken the plant and injecting the saliva can spread diseases from plant to plant. In addition, aphids excrete a sticky, clear substance called «honeydew» which commonly fosters the development sooty mold. Sooty mold is unsightly and interferes with the plant’s ability to photosynthesize.
Because aphids are so tiny, sometimes the first sign that massive infestation is pending is the sign of many ants on your plants. The honeydew secretion is a much-prized food for ants, so when you see many ants on plants, there is a very good likelihood that aphids are also present.
Effect on Garden Plants
Aphids can weaken a plant, stunt its growth, cause leaves to curl or wilt, and delay fruit or flower production. In general, an overall anemic appearance to your plants when there is not a water shortage or other obvious reason will strongly hint that aphids are to blame.
Organic Controls for Aphids
There are a number of non-chemical ways to combat or discourage aphid infestations.
- Sometimes a strong blast of water from the hose will knock the aphids off of a plant and solve the problem.
- If you attract or purchase certain beneficial insects–such as ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, or damsel bugs–they will attack the aphids. For this reason, fewer chemical pesticides used in the garden can paradoxically reduce the severity of aphid infestations. A more diverse insect population generally keeps aphid attacks at bay. Plantings mint, fennel, dill, yarrow, and dandelions will attract these predators to your garden. Ants are natural enemies of predatory insects, so you may need to control ants in order to maximize the hunting ability of the beneficiaries.
- Plants can also be sprayed with insecticidal soap or a homemade tomato leaf or garlic spray to kill aphids but these solutions must be reapplied when the infestations reappear.
- Some biological insecticides based on fungi are known to work on aphids.
If You Use Chemical Solutions
Aphids are easily killed by standard chemical pesticides. However, since aphids are so prolific and will reinfest so readily, gardeners who try to rely on chemicals often find that their problems are intensified over the long run. This is because chemicals must be reapplied often and will also destroy populations of beneficial insects and discourage other aphid predators, such as insect-eating birds.
Many gardeners find that an adapted form of the integrated pest management (IPM) practice used by commercial agriculture is a good approach for home gardening. Under this philosophy, some degree of plant damage is deemed acceptable as the price paid for a diverse gardening culture in which the presence of many insect species tends to prevent any single pest from causing overwhelming damage. Over the long run, minimal use of chemical pesticides tends to produce an overall healthier garden, albeit one in which small levels of insect damage may be present.
Good vs. Bad Ladybugs in Your Garden and How to Tell the Difference
Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.
Ladybugs Are Always Hungry!
All ladybugs have gluttonous, insatiable appetites for aphids and other insects, and that’s a good thing. Some of them, however, can be more of a nuisance than a benefit.
The «good» ladybugs are the ones that stay in your garden devouring all the insects that invade your plants, seeking shelter outdoors when the weather is cold; the «bad» ladybugs have the same voracious appetite for aphids and other destructive bugs, but, unfortunately, they like to come indoors when it gets cold. When they do come inside, they emit a terrible odor and leave large yellow stains around your house before they die.
The really «bright» ladybugs are the ones that are the most toxic to some animals. Fortunately (especially for your beloved pets), their bright color and the fact that they emit an extremely foul odor keeps most predators away.
Superstitions surround just about everything on the planet, and the ladybug is no exception. Where and how a superstition begins is always open for a debate, but in the case of the ladybug, more than likely the thought that if you harmed a ladybug you would have bad luck was introduced by either a full-time farmer or a flower gardener, both of whom would have good reason to keep young boys from killing the one thing that was allowing them to have a successful crop.
That superstition, however, was developed in other directions (but always pointed at good fortune), and women in the Victorian era actually believed they would receive something new if a ladybug were to land on their bodies. If a ladybug landed on their hand, they thought they might receive a new pair of gloves; and if it landed on their head, a new hat might be in the near future. In more modern times, superstitious people believe their wishes will come true should a ladybug decide to land on them anywhere.
So, even though the common ladybug is native to America, there are people around the world who believe that it is a symbol of good luck. And, if you are a farmer with hundreds of acres of crop or simply someone who loves to raise a beautiful flower garden, it truly could be, because the ladybug lives to devour aphids, whiteflies and other bugs that wreak havoc on your plants.
Note: In regard to aphids, they may look harmless, but those tiny sap-suckers will suck the life right out of your plants, so let them be lunch for your ladybugs.
The Four Stages of the Life Cycle Start Here
Don’t Be Alarmed When You See This Guy!
Even the Pupa Stage Can Look a Bit Alarming
But Eventually, the Ladybug Will Look Something Like This
The Asian Lady Beetle is an exception to some of the things you’ve read so far about the benefits of having ladybugs in your garden. This cute little creature can be very aggresive and may even bite if they make contact with your skin, so they probably won’t be your ladybug of choice for protecting your plants.
The first Asian Lady Beetles were found in the United States in about 1988, so they are relatively new to America. They are, however, native to Asia and hang out in trees and fields feeding on aphids and scale insects. In Japan, they are often found in soybean fields, but in the United States, they inhabit crops like roses, soybeans, alfalfa, tobacco and corn crops. The Asian Lady Beetle, like other ladybugs, can devour hundreds of aphids a day (and thousands in its lifetime) so, while they can be beneficial to your plants, you still have to remember that they might bite, so you need to simply leave them alone outside and let them do their work. Let’s discuss how to identify them, because Asian Lady Beetles like to come indoors and you won’t want them there.
Description of an Asian Lady Beetle
There are some ways to distinguish the «bad» from the «good» ladybugs. The Asian Lady Beetle looks a lot like the good ladybug, but the main difference is that they have an «M» or «W» design right behind their head in an area that is a whitish color and they can come in a variety of colors, as you can see from the photographs with this article. Most of the spots on the Asian Lady Beetle are dark and black, whereas others have lighter spots, with some having no spots at all.
In the life cycle of a ladybug, all of the stages are the same for the Asian Lady Beetle as for the common ladybug, so the only way you would probably be able to distinguish one from the other is in the adult stage when the marking becomes visible behind the head.
Asian Lady Beetles don’t like cold weather and have been known to crawl into any cracks of a home they can find, eventually making their way inside looking for warmth. They will fly around inside your house and leave disgusting, smelly yellow fluid that will stain your furniture, walls, ceilings and any other surfaces on which they might land.
If you have several Asian Lady Beetles that have made their way into your home, you might even suffer an allergic reaction to them. Problems such as hay fever, hives, asthma, coughing or even pink eye have been known to occur, not only from touching the beetles but by simply being around a large infestation of them.
Pest proof your home by sealing any and all cracks through which they might enter. If, despite your best efforts to keep them out, they still are in your home, simply vacuum them up or use a sticky tape to get rid of them. Squashing them will only cause more stains and more odor.
Ohio State University has a detailed website about the Asian Lady Beetles that will answer just about any questions you have about them. To access it, click here.
The Bad Guy
A study that was published in Scientific Reports journal suggests that the brighter a ladybug is, the more toxic it is to some animals. The same report also revealed that the more conspicuous the beetle is, the less likely it is to be attacked by predators. Their bright colors apparently serve as a type of warning to potential predators that the beetles are not afraid to use their extremely foul-smelling, poisonous chemicals for self defense purposes. Apparently, the brighter the ladybug, the more disgusting it tastes.
The study was the first to show how the color and/or conspicuousness of the ladybug reveals their level of toxicity, and determines whether or not they are likely to be attacked by predators.
They might as well be wearing a sign that says: «Eat me and I’ll make you vomit!»
But Never, Ever Ugly!
Although ladybugs in the pupa stage have a bit of an «alien» look to them, try to remember that eventually they are going to turn into a gorgeous, aphid-munching machine. That’s when they will become truly appreciated as natural (and really cute) pest control solutions.
So, they are never, ever ugly!
Have You Ever Released Ladybugs into Your Garden to Control the Pests?
Questions & Answers
When is the best time to release lady bugs to your garden if you buy them?
If you were referring to the time of day, they should be released in the early evening hours. If you release them when the sun is out they will fly away immediately.
© 2017 Mike and Dorothy McKenney
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Mike and Dorothy McKenney
10 days ago from United States
Thank you; sorry to hear about the destruction of your plants!
Harry Chiangrai Thailand
There are many groups taken the place on my longbean plants and distroying all the fruits and trees. They are very small size and not like beautiful ladybugs.
Any how wish you happy easter 2020.
Mike and Dorothy McKenney
7 months ago from United States
Thanks for reading!
Mike and Dorothy McKenney
10 months ago from United States
And YOU are nice to read my article! Thanks!
Mike and Dorothy McKenney
20 months ago from United States
Yes, of course. Send it to [email protected]
I have a video of a bug that I think is an Asian ladybug beetle giving itself a bath? I wondered if I could email it to you??
Mike and Dorothy McKenney
23 months ago from United States
I have done some preliminary research and I think you may be looking at Cowpea Curculio beetles. Check out the information on the internet about these and let me know if you think they are the problem. Thanks so much for reading my stuff and I hope I am able to be of assistance to you.
Mike and Dorothy McKenney
23 months ago from United States
Would it be possible for you to send me a picture to my e-mail address? Without seeing the bugs to know exactly what they are, I would be afraid to give you bad information. If you can, send me a photo to [email protected] — Thanks!
Hi I’m a new gardener living in Thailand. I’ve found bugs that I’ve never seen before. From my searching they look like steel blue ladybird but I’m not sure what they are. I’m trying to search on Thai website but nothing pop up about that bugs. The bugs are all over my bean plants and starting to go on my green long egg plants. What should I do?
Mike and Dorothy McKenney
2 years ago from United States
Thank you so much!!
2 years ago from United States
Very nice article.
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Know Your Garden’s Insect Friends and Foes
Not every creepy-crawly is a pest to be squashed. Here’s a list to help you sort the helpful insects in your garden from the not-so-helpful.
Insects are virtually everywhere, and it’s impossible to keep them out of your garden. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A wide variety of insect life promotes biodiversity in the wild, and the same is true for your garden.
Most of the insects you encounter in your garden are probably of the beneficial variety. So, when designing your garden, make sure to leave some areas wild and undisturbed. Leave a section of the grass unmowed, build bug boxes, spread mulch, and plant a wide variety of flowering plants, including angelica, buckwheat, dill or fennel, marigolds, and sunflowers.
However, it pays to know the constructive bugs from the destructive ones. The following is a list of some common insects that will help or hinder your garden plot, along with some tips on how to attract the good bugs and deter the bad ones.