How To Treat The Ladies
Posted on: Monday, September 22, 2014 by Darryl McCullough
Figuring out to give aid to those who might fight on our side seems to be the topic of the day. As a low-toxicity horticulturalist, I try to support predator insects to patrol my vulnerable food plants. Including lots of native plants in your landscaping and leaving some wild habitat near your production areas are easy ways to support pollinators as well as predator insects.
I recently learned another technique from Lee County Extension Agent Roy Beckford. Most any experienced gardener knows that lady bugs are predators for the aphids that attack new growth on many kinds of plants, even our beloved fruit trees. And most of us have seen those packages of lady bugs at the plant nursery, the idea being to take them home and release them into your garden or grove to make short work of an aphid infestation. Roy says one problem with that, aside from the cost, is that lady bugs might not stay where you put them. It's better to use the less mobile larvae of the lady bug, indeed the rapidly-growing larvae have a more voracious appetite than the adults.
I've never seen ladybug larvae for sale, but as Roy demonstrated, it's easy to produce your own. Fill a big jar with strips of newspaper torn about an inch wide, and pour in some pure honey. Now for the fun part. Go out and capture a few ladybugs--- a dozen is more than enough--- and put them in. Use a rubber band or string to secure some fine netting over the mouth of the jar (insects need air too!). In a couple of weeks, it should be full of ladybug larvae, ready for action wherever needed. You can use some of the larvae to start a new batch, and with a couple of colonies on staggered schedules you will be ready whenever aphids may appear. Treat the ladies right, and you'll have a low-tech, low-budget, zero-toxicity approach to keeping your garden ecology healthy.