One of the most popular and instantly recognizable insects, ladybugs are loved by home and professional gardeners worldwide. It’s easy to fall in love with their shiny fiery red elytra with cute little black dots. Their unique color patterns are commonly seen on children’s clothing, toys, accessories and decorations and even partially inspired the polka dot. But ladybugs are not only pretty to look at, they are also extremely useful. They have a voracious appetite for many different species of invertebrates that are undesirable on our outdoor surfaces including aphids, scale insects, spider mites, bugs, thrips, caterpillars, larvae etc. If you are having trouble attracting these lovely insects into your own garden, then today’s article is for you. Here we share helpful tips and tricks on how to attract ladybugs, as well as fun and interesting facts about their way of life.
Ladybugs should not be missing in any garden
Correctly recognize ladybugs in the garden and forest
Now you may be thinking that it is impossible to confuse a ladybug. However, did you know that there are over 6000 completely unique species of ladybugs in the world? The term actually describes a whole family of insects called Coccinellidae. The most common ladybird species here are the Coccinella septempunctatabetter known as the seven-point ladybug or simply seven-point, and also the Adalia bipunctata – Two-point ladybug or just two-point.
Other species may have more or fewer dots, stripes instead of dots, or no markings at all. They can be black with yellow, orange, or brown spots, or vice versa. Many ladybird species are also slightly hairy and can therefore remain active into late autumn.
Around 70 species are represented in Germany alone
One of the most important things gardeners should know is that not all ladybugs are actually useful and some can be considered vermin. Species such as the Asian harlequin ladybird and the twenty-four spot ladybird actually feed mainly on ornamental and crop plants and are no less harmful than aphids. It is better not to attract these species in the garden.
Each ladybug species has unique patterns
Recognizing ladybug eggs and larvae
Despite the huge diversity of species, most adult ladybirds are relatively easy to identify as such. However, their larvae hardly resemble their parents. These hatch around the beginning of May from golden yellow elongated eggs, which are usually laid in groups of 10 to 50 near an aphid or scale insect colony. Their tiny bodies are elongated and spiny, black or gray with orange or yellow markings. Entomologists often describe them as small crocodiles, as do the aphid lions of the equally beneficial lacewings.
Larvae crawl around the garden for about 2-3 weeks and can consume about 400 prey items during this time. After that, they find a comfortable leaf underside for pupating. The pupa already resembles the adult ladybug, which hatches from it after about 6-10 days.
If you discover the first eggs, you should not cut your garden plants
The larva of the seven-spot ladybug looks like this
The doll will look like this
Not only aphids are on the menu
Ladybugs are active here from spring to late autumn and only during the day. Under ideal and predator-free conditions, they can live up to 3 years. During its active lifespan, a single adult ladybug can eat up to 75 aphids or scale insects per day. However, if its favorite food is not available, it will also devour any other invertebrates it encounters. As already mentioned, these include spider mites, bugs, thrips, caterpillars and also slugs, the larvae and eggs of all kinds of insects. If it can’t find any of these prey items, a ladybug will satiate its insatiable appetite with pollen and nectar as well. In these cases, it also serves as a pollinator.
Ladybugs are active hunters with big appetites
Even slugs don’t stand a chance against these insects
But they also like flower nectar
Attracting ladybugs – simple methods for hobby and professional gardeners
Food and shelter are all a ladybug needs to survive. If you can provide both, this beneficial insect will happily fly into your garden. One of the most important food sources are the already mentioned invertebrates. Therefore, it is important never to use pesticides that kill both the pests and the beneficials.
If you spot a colony of aphids or scale insects but no ladybugs yet, simply spray the plant with a solution of sugar or honey and water. This mimics the honeydew of the lice and can quickly attract the ladybugs. An alternate recipe calls for some elderflower and a little more patience. Boil about 100 grams of it in one liter of water, leave to stand overnight and strain. Dilute then spray the garden with it.
There are also some ornamental and useful plants whose pollen and nectar taste particularly good to the ladybug. These include above all angelica, chives, coriander, caraway, dill, fennel, marigolds, cosmos flowers, ornamental chamomile, sea lavender, stone herb, mint, poppy, yarrow and of course elder.
Insect hotels for all beneficial insects in the garden
As soon as the temperatures start to drop, the ladybugs seek each other out. The large colonies then search together for sheltered places to hibernate. The adult insects then hibernate on the ground between moss, leaves, straw and tree bark. You can provide them with these conditions simply by building an insect hotel for them and other beneficial insects as well. Ready-made models are now also available in all major garden centers. Place the finished cottage close to the ground in a wind-protected spot.
Ladybugs work as a team to find a warm place to hibernate
Even if none of this works and you can’t attract ladybugs, don’t give up. It’s possible that there just aren’t enough of these beneficial insects in your area. This could be mainly because you or your neighbors have used pesticides in the past. The easiest solution in this case is to buy ladybug larvae from the garden center and release them near an aphid or scale insect colony.
Every gardener should try to deal with vermin naturally. These methods of attracting ladybugs are a practical and environmentally friendly alternative to chemicals.