Do you have a garden and are looking for ways to keep the pests under control naturally? If so, you should consider attracting ladybugs to your garden. Ladybugs, also called Ladybirds and lady beetles, are an excellent form of natural pest control because they eat many types of insects, including aphids, mealy bugs, and scale. So, let’s find out how to attract ladybugs to the garden and some of the benefits of doing so!
The Benefits of Ladybugs in the Garden
Ladybugs certainly are beautiful to watch and admire, but they are so much more than a lovely color. These beneficial insects play a very important role in the garden by eating many types of harmful pests. Some other benefits of having ladybugs in your garden include:
- Reduced need for pesticides (always a good thing!)
- Less damage to plants from pests
- Helps keep the population of bad bugs under control
While pesticides may be used in some persistent cases, we must remember that pesticides affect far more than just the plant you’re using it on. Chemical pesticides can get into the soil, affecting the organisms living there, as well as being brought into our homes after harvest. I know as a gardener and mom, I’m always looking for ways to reduce my family’s exposure to harsh chemicals including insecticides and fertilizers.
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Why Gardeners Shouldn’t Buy Ladybugs
While some gardeners to advocate for purchasing ladybugs to release in the garden, there is little evidence that shows they actually stick around. In fact, there’s research to the contrary.
Many of the ladybugs that are sold for gardens are collected in the mountains of the western US, during their hibernation period. They are kept cool until ready to ship.
Upon waking up, these Ladybugs will travel pretty great distances thinking their heading to lowlands, so purchasing them may just be helping your neighbors a few towns over. This article from North Dakota State University gives us great information about why we cannot “buy friendship” from ladybugs. It would be convenient if it worked, but alas, it doesn’t.
How to Attract Ladybugs to the Garden
You will be much more successful in attracting native ladybugs to your garden naturally, by providing food and shelter. By creating a hospitable environment in your own yard or property, you’ll be inviting in ladybugs and all types of other beneficial pollinators and natural pest control keepers.
Foods That Attract Ladybugs
Many types of edible flowers can attract ladybugs. Not only are they beautiful to look at, but they offer a tasty snack for many beneficial insects including bees, butterflies, hoverflies and of course, ladybugs. Herbs and flowers that attract beneficial insects include:
- Chamomile (use this for tea, too!)
- Nasturtiums (Perfect planted among other garden vegetables)
- Cone flower (a lovely medicinal perennial!)
- Fennel (also great for cooking!)
- Dill (How to Grow Dill and Save Dill Seeds)
- Marigolds (annuals or perennials)
- Sunflowers (How to Grow Sunflowers)
- Parsley (How to Grow Parsley)
- Sage (How to Grow Sage)
- Rosemary (Tips for Growing Rosemary)
Other Garden Features That Attract Ladybugs to the Garden
Having some of these other garden features can also naturally attract native ladybugs to your garden.
- A water source: Ladybugs need water just like plants do, so having a small pond or fountain in the garden will help to draw them in.
- Stone piles: Ladybugs like to hide and lay their eggs in protected places, such as under stones. So, creating a stone pile or two in the garden will help with this. (If this is near a wet area, it may also help attract frogs and toads, which also can be beneficial for the garden.)
- Wood piles: Same as above, ladybugs like to hide out in little crevices. So, having a wood pile is another way to provide shelter for these beneficial insects.
Avoiding Pesticides to Attract Ladybugs
This may come as a surprise, but ladybugs are… bugs! And another way to attract ladybugs to your garden is to avoid using pesticides. This can include pesticides used in the garden directly or what you may use on your lawn.
Some pesticides can kill indiscriminately, meaning whatever type of bug happens to come in contact with it. Even some more natural options, like diatomaceous earth, should be used carefully since any soft-bodies insects can be affected by it.
For lots of natural pest control options that won’t affect ladybugs, check out my book Natural Pest Control for the Home Garden. It is an easy reference for home gardeners broken down by the type of pest you’re dealing with.
So, create a welcoming environment for your ladybug friends and let them do some of the work in your garden!