Can You Really Use Ladybugs To Get Aphids Off Your Plants?
We love ladybugs for a good reason. They eat those nasty aphids that are sucking the life out of our gardens!
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Shouting “leave my flowers alone!” is usually my first response when I see thousands — okay, maybe hundreds — of aphids crawling all over the stems of a favorite flower.
Aphids are soft-bodied insects with mouth parts they use to pierce leaves and stems, sucking the life out of plants. My second response after spotting aphids is checking for any ladybugs nearby. Ladybugs devour aphids.
Some sources claim a ladybug will eat 50 aphids in one day. But if I don’t see any ladybugs in my garden, should I buy some, as suggested in this TikTok video?
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How It Works
The presence of ladybugs (technically beetles) in your garden should reduce the aphid population enough to prevent damage to your favorite plants. You can buy ladybugs to put in your garden if you don’t see any. In theory, they’ll eat the aphids, solving the problem.
“In theory” is the key phrase here.
Why Purchased Ladybugs Might Not Work
There’s no guarantee the introduced ladybugs will hang around and keep your garden aphid-free. Ladybugs will go wherever there’s food. If your garden isn’t a good natural habitat for ladybugs, they will soon fly off.
In the Tiktok video, the gardener releases the ladybugs in a greenhouse. Though less likely to fly away, the ladybugs won’t live long if that greenhouse environment doesn’t provide for their long-term needs.
And be careful when buying ladybugs at the garden center. In her book Plant Partners, Science-Based Companion Planting Strategies for the Vegetable Garden, Jessica Walliser tells consumers to avoid them.
“In most cases they are convergent ladybugs (Hippodamia convergens) that are wild collected from their overwintering sites on sunny mountaintops in the western United States and shipped around the country for sale,” she writes. “The practice disturbs wild populations and potentially spreads disease to indigenous ladybug species in your garden.”
How to Keep Ladybugs in Your Garden
For ladybugs to keep aphids under control in your garden, you need a garden ladybugs are attracted to. In general:
- Provide nectar sources: Planting sunflowers, alyssum, dill and fennel can attract ladybugs to plants regularly attacked by aphids.
- Provide places for ladybugs to overwinter: Ladybugs love fallen leaves. Keep the leaves right where they fall.
- Avoid spraying pesticides: You’ll likely kill the ladybugs along with your targeted pests.
Other Ways to Get Rid of Aphids
If ladybugs aren’t solving your aphid problem, try one of these methods.
- Put on a pair of garden gloves and wipe the aphids off the plants. Aphids won’t fly away when you touch them, so it’s easy to wipe away small populations by hand.
- Spray them off the plants with water from a garden hose. Use a strong enough spray to knock the aphids off, but not so strong that it damages the plant.