A favorite with both home gardeners and large scale growers, the ladybug, also called lady beetle or ladybird beetle, is one of the most popular beneficial insects. Both the adult and the dark gray and orange marked larvae will feed on pests that are not too hard shelled, too fast moving, or too large. Unlike other beneficial insects, ladybugs (Hippodamia convergens) are collected as adults in the California foothills where they gather in large quantities during the winter and late summer months. Once collected, they are placed in cloth bags with wood shavings – which provide protection – and are shipped all over the United States.
After a few days of feeding, the female ladybug will deposit her eggs in small yellow clusters under a plant leaf or on the stem. The amount of eggs laid depends on the pest population. In most cases, eggs are laid on or near plants infested with large numbers of aphids. Within 7-days the tiny eggs hatch into alligator shaped larvae (scroll down), which quickly begin feeding on many soft-bodied pests, mites, and insect eggs. Within a month the larvae will pupate and one week later young adults will emerge, ready to feed. There are 1-2 generations per year, depending on weather conditions.
For a large selection of beneficial insects, including live ladybugs, we recommend Planet Natural. One half pint — 4,500 ladybugs — treats an average size garden and costs only $26.00 (FedEx 2-day shipping included!).
Ladybugs may fly away soon after release. This can be prevented by late afternoon releases close to sunset, which gives them a chance to settle down overnight. They will also seek other areas when pest levels are too low; ladybird beetles require a certain amount of food in order to reproduce. If they cannot find enough food in your garden, they will try to find it elsewhere. Release one half pint (approximately 4,500) to treat a 3,000 sq. ft. growing area.
Note: Larvae will eat approximately 400 aphids prior to pupating. Adults will consume more than 5,000 aphids during their lifetime.
Tip: Ants feed on the honeydew that sucking insects (aphids, mealybugs, thrips) produce and will vigorously protect these pests from their natural enemies. If possible, control ants prior to release.
• Click here for more information on ladybird beetles.
• Ladybug Fact Sheet – Ohio State University
• Hippodamia convergens – Iowa State University Entomology Department
• Lady Beetles – University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
• Parasitic Wasps Avoid the Smelly Feet of Ladybirds – Rothamsted Research
• The Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) – USDA (ARS)