The aphids are thick in the garden. Lisa and I were enjoying a sunset this week and the winged adults were so thick they were drawn to the flames of the fire pit and polluted our iced teas. Time to bring some ladybugs from the garden center. We have ladybugs at the garden center or you can buy them online from Amazon. Or Better Yet Join us on April 7– 9 at 2pm to help us release ours in the Garden Center and take some home to protect your own garden.
There are many reasons to love Ladybugs. This little red beetle started as a legend during the middle ages. European farmers, about 1000AD, struggles with insects that would eat and destroy their crops. At the first sign of crop damage farmers would prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. Ladybugs came and ate the harmful insects and the farmers named these answers to prayer as "Our Lady's beetles"; this eventually became ladybugs. Since the 1800's farmers have been raising ladybugs domestically to control pests on their organic farms.
Today, you can buy ladybugs to release in your own garden and help control unwanted pests. Many people who prefer not to use chemicals in their garden look for organic methods to keep their gardens healthy with ladybugs gaining popularity as an all-natural control.
Ladybugs are most active during the warm days of spring and well into fall. They primarily eat aphids but also prey on scale, mealybugs, spider mites and thrip. They are ferocious eaters - eating as many as 5,000 aphids in their lifetime.
There are over 500 species of ladybugs in the United States alone, and over 4500 in the world. The ladybug we recommend here at Watters Garden Center is the species Hippodamia convergens. You can recognize this particular ladybug by the two white dashes on the back of its body, and Watters carries these ladybugs starting in March through the spring season.
How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden
Keep the Cool – The cool weather mid-week has been perfect for releasing ladybugs in the garden. Ladybugs have wings and like to use them. You will need to slow them down long enough to find your gardens attractive. When you get home with your ladybugs, leave the cup sealed and place them in the refrigerator or cool space (35-40 degrees). Being cool calms ladybugs down. Keep them refridgerated until you're ready to release them that evening.
Ladybugs will be thirsty at first. Spray or mist the parts of the garden you plan to release you ladybugs in. This will allow them to rehydrate before searching for a meal. You will not have to do this again as ladybugs get most their moisture from the insects they feed on.
Release them at night - plan to release ladybugs in your garden at the base of a plant just as dusk arrives in the evening. If you have a plant with a particular aphid problem open the cup at the base of that plant. This will give them the night to settle in, find food and realize that your garden is a great place to live!
Grandfathers only! Get your kids involved! Plan ahead and allow your granddaughters to dress up as ladybugs before releasing actual ladybugs into the garden. I guarantee this is a memory your daughters will not forget. I find the mask even works for sons under 6 years old. Here's an inexpensive outfit found on Amazon. Kids especially have fun releasing ladybugs and this is a great way to teach them about environmental responsibility. You will find ladybugs stick around and kids will find them all season long. Stop in and pick up a cup of ladybugs, take them home and have fun enjoying nature this spring.
A Ladybug house gives these decorative beauties a place to rest from the elements, especially through winter. Encourage Ladybugs to stay near your garden the season.
Fresh ladybugs just arrived at Watters Garden Center, I'll be helping customers at the bug counter until next week's issue.
Watters Garden Center Classes
March 25 – Top 10 Trees of Spring
Not all trees are created equal in the mountains. You will be an expert on the best ornamental bloomers this spring. We also delve into the fast growing shade, low maintenance varieties.
April 1 – Controlling Gophers, Bugs, and Disease in the Gardens
If you let these pests gain a foothold they are nearly impossible to rid from your garden, until now. Learn all the rat deadly secrets to a disease free garden this spring. Pinyon pine scale, aphids, powdery mildew, grubs and much more are covered.
April 8 – Advanced Container Designs
Lisa Lain, Watters owner, has been creating container designs for decades. This 3-step program puts the floral style back into your garden. The class is free to onlookers, but the first 12 students to sign up create their own design with her professional guidance, and take it home same day for a $35. fee. Come ready to get your hands dirty and your containers beautified. Bring your own pot.
April 15 – Drip Irrigation Design and Installation
Newest technologies in irrigation introduced. April is time to turn that irrigation back on. Learn the benefits of drip irrigation, the best emitters, and parts, how to set a system up or add a plant to it. With the right system, you can save water and have healthier plants all at the same time.
April 22 – Going Native and Low, Low maintenance
This class coincides with our annual native plant sale along with a host of other Low, LOW, LOW water use plants that once established require little to no water and even less care.
April 29 – Grow Your Own Groceries From Tomatoes 2 Fruits
This fun filled class has everything edible for the garden this spring. Nothing is genetically modified here at Watters, but we will cover the best heirloom varieties to local favorites. The ideal soil preparation, best foods, and care are all covered in this fast-paced class.