Monday, May 13, 2013

Got Ladybugs? You Have a Healthy Garden!

Most novice gardeners reach for a chemical spray when they first see bugs in their garden. Spray with insecticide and you will eliminate all the bad bugs. The problem is you will eliminate all the good bugs as well. Then, in a few weeks you will find the bad bugs returning (sometimes in even larger numbers). What do you do then? Reach for the spray and the cycle starts all over.

Spraying chemicals is actually one of the worst things you can do for your garden. Ideally, you want to have both good bugs and bad bugs. The good bugs will keep the bag bugs in check for you. The best thing to do for your garden is to plant things that will attract the good bugs. For example, there are quite a few good adult insects (lacewings and hoverflies come to mind) that feed on the pollen and nectar of flowers. However, the young nymphs feed on bad bugs.

In my garden, the bug that is the star of the show this time of year is the ladybug. I love these bugs! Usually, the first bug of the year I see is aphids. The second is ladybugs. I am always reminded to remain patient as I watch the aphids try to eat everything I treasure. Currently, they are in my irises, strawberries, grapes and apple trees. At about the time I lose patience with these critters, I start to see the glorious ladybugs do my work for me!

Ladybugs on my irises.

Ladybugs on my apple trees.

Ladybugs love to eat aphids. It doesn't take many of them to eliminate the aphid problem in my yard. Patience is the key here. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen. To help encourage the good guys to show up and do their work, plant some lovely flowers. A mix of flowers is best but here is a list of some of the ones the good bugs seem to love:

  • Herbs such as dill, caraway, yarrow and fennel (plant some for you and a few extra that you can let go to flower for the good bugs)
  • Geraniums
  • Lilies
  • Tulips
  • Cosmos
  • Zinnias
  • Sunflowers
  • Marigolds
  • Daisies
  • Angelica 
Ideally, the flowers should have different bloom times. That way you can continue to attract them all season long. This brings me to another point. Sometimes you see ladybugs for sale in seed and plant catalogs. In my opinion, purchasing bugs is a waste of money. If the good bugs can't find anything to eat in your yard, they will leave. So if you purchase them and don't provide any food, all you did was help your neighbors who did provide food. And if you are going to provide food for the good bugs, you are going to attract them naturally anyway!

Plant flowers instead! Beautify your yard and help to keep the bad bugs at bay! This will require less work and less money in the long run. You will truly have a garden in balance.

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