All of our recent rain (and there's been a lot -- more so far this year than all of 2011) has led to an explosion in bug populations. I was pretty "live and let live" until they started eating my plants, but I still didn't want to bring any pesticides or harmful chemicals into the garden, so I decided to try the cutest of the "integrated pest management" (IPM) strategies: ladybugs.
Two thousand of them were $8 at Countryside Nursery (where we got our trees last year), which works out to .4 cents per ladybug. Not bad for something that will eat several times its body weight in pests each day.
We spread them on our plants last night after spraying the plants with water to dislodge the pests, as directed by the instructions on the package. Although most of our plants are showing signs of being nibbled by something very small yet very hungry, the lamb's ears have fared the worst, so we made sure lots of ladybugs ended up there:
Instructions on the package warned us not to kill the ladybug larvae (which look nothing like ladybugs, and actually look rather like a garden pest themselves). There was also a line drawing of a larva, but it looked like pretty much every bug I've ever seen in the garden, so I took to Google to find some photos (which vary widely based on the specific ladybug species):
We expect the ladybugs to spend a few days eating in our garden and then probably move on, but should any of them like it enough to stay and raise a family, we didn't want to accidentally harm any ladybug eggs, so I looked that up as well:
Of course, this process brought up the question of male ladybugs, and we learned that boy ladybugs look (to the untrained eye) just like girl ladybugs, so our package of 2,000 included both (which will, I am sure, assist with the egg/larva situation).
My favorite part of the ladybug experience? Knowing that not only are we not bringing poison into our yard, but we're helping our neighbors to get rid of their garden pests naturally, too.