Aphids vs. Ladybugs: An Experiment in Eco Pest Control
Eileen has a beautiful flower garden in the courtyard behind her row house. As soon as you walk out, you’re enveloped in a leafy oasis.
A landscape designer, she takes the utmost care of her plantings, so she noticed a problem with her Heliopsis flower petals right away.
And the culprit became readily apparent as well: aphids. You can see the red critters encircling the stem just below the flower. I wouldn’t have known what they were, but an experienced gardener sure would.
The Heliopsis should look like this – full, rich in color, with leaves intact.
But the aphids, little by little, have been decimating the flowers. Instead of using pesticides, Eileen chose to call in a natural predator of aphids: Ladybugs. And not just a few. Eileen wasn’t fooling around – she ordered by mail a packet of 1,500 live ladybugs.
She was told to release about 50-75 at a time, in the late day and early morning hours.
I went outside with her the other night to watch her let the first batch of hungry ladybugs free.
Many of them went straight for the aphids.
Others took a little while to get reoriented after their long journey through the mail. But, they all clung to the leaves and stems eventually, crawling to and fro.
Eileen was hopeful that they’ll do what comes naturally. One ladybug can eat about 50 aphids a day, after all. But, alas, Eileen wrote a day later saying that the ladybugs were snoozing on the job, like as she put it, “a pile of puppies.”
Many of the ladybugs, she said, had moved to the healthy, aphid-free dahlias. After she released all of the 1,500 ladybugs, they still didn’t seem too interested in the aphids. “Throughout the morning yesterday,” she says, “I saw one after the other fly off in search of….what? Clearly not aphids! This morning there are a few ladybugs still on the plants, but just as many aphids as before.” She concludes that it was an interesting experiment that didn’t work.
Have you used ladybugs to deal with an aphid infestation on your plants and has it worked for you?