Aphids are often the first pest to appear in the Spring, covering the growing tips of roses, aspen trees and columbines, sucking out the plant’s juices with their straw-like mouths. Aphids secrete a sweet sugary substance that attracts ants–often the first indicator of an aphid infestation. Curled leaves are another aphid indicator. Most aphids can’t fly, and can be dislodged with the spray from your garden hose. However, those not dislodged can give live birth to up to 100 baby aphids each, replenishing the population in no time. Aphids can also be controlled using sprays, systemic insecticides and ladybugs–the method being discussed here.
Ladybugs are a natural predator of aphids, capable of eating up to 5000 aphids in their 3-6 week life span. Ladybug larva don’t look much like the adults, but are responsible for the majority of the aphid-eating. They’re not very pretty, and actually kinda creepy, but don’t squish them. Here’s a picture of one I took in the Greenhouse last year:
Mt Garfield Greenhouse sells cartons (prices determined by the vendor each year) of live ladybugs starting in the spring and up until the weather starts getting hot. Each carton contains over a thousand ladybugs!
Here are steps you should take to help keep these aphid eaters around:
- Mist the top of the carton with water and keep them in the door of your fridge until you’re ready to release them.
- At dusk, spray the aphid-infested plants with water.
- Sprinkle the ladybugs at the base of each plant. (Ladybugs don’t like to fly at night, and will move up the plant drinking water, eventually finding the aphids.)
As long as there are aphids to eat, the ladybugs should stay around! Ladybugs are insects, and will be killed by insecticides–don’t use ladybugs if you’re using an insecticidal spray.