1,500 Ladybugs in a Bag
Posted in: Lawn and Garden

Ladybugs (Hippodamia convergens)

Keep refrigerated (35-40° F) until ready to use

After receiving your package of ladybugs (seasonally available), leave the bag sealed and place it in a refrigerator, or other cool place. This calms the ladybugs down from their shipping experience. Early evening is the best time to release them, and gives them all night to settle in, find food and water, and decide they've found a good home (your garden). Ladybugs will probably be thirsty from their long journey, and will appreciate moist places to drink. If necessary, sprinkle some water around first before their release. Later on, they'll get most of their moisture needs from aphids and other plant pests.
Ladybug on leaf
Ladybugs like having large pest populations to eat, which helps stimulate them to mate and lay eggs. When food is harder to find, adult ladybugs may fly off, but the eggs hatch and provide further control. (Both adults and larvae feed on insect pests.) If desired, you can keep ladybug adults from flying away by "gluing" their wings shut, temporarily, with a sugar-water solution. Half water and half sugared pop (Coke, Pepsi, etc.), in a spray bottle, works fine. Spray it right in the bag the ladybugs come in, as soon as you open it. You'll easily coat most of them. After a week or so, the "glue" wears off. What do ladybug eggs and larvae look like? Their eggs look like clusters of little orange footballs each laid on edge. After hatching, they'll look like tiny black "alligators", with orange spots. Extremely fast moving, they grow to 1/2" long over 2-3 weeks, then they pupate, usually on the top of the leaf, into another adult ladybug. One larvae will eat about 400 medium-size aphids during its development to the pupa stage. An adult ladybug may eat over 5000 aphids during its lifetime (about a year).

Live Ladybugs When not being used, ladybugs may be stored in the refrigerator, where they live off their body fat. (Keep the temperature between 35-45° F.) They appear almost dead in the refrigerator, but quickly come active when warmed up. How long can they be stored? Usually 2-3 months, but it depends on the time of year, and some losses can be expected the longer they're stored. During early spring (March and April) they should be used somewhat sooner, as these are older ladybugs from the previous year. During May, ladybugs should be released immediately. The new ladybug crop comes in about June 1, and these young ladybugs actually seem to benefit from refrigeration 1-2 months - it simulates winter for them. (Ladybugs are one of the few insects sold that are collected in the wild rather than insectary grown, so we are dependent on their natural life cycle ) Ladybugs are sorted through before shipping, to ensure that only live ones are sent out. (A small loss in shipping is normal.)

Wild Bee HoneyIn order for ladybugs to mature and lay eggs, they need nectar and pollen sources. This is normally supplied by the wide range of plants outside, such as flowering plants and legumes (peas, beans, clover, and alfalfa). If desired, you can substitute an artificial food if these others are lacking. (This isn't necessary for pest control with ladybugs, only as an aid in breeding.) To make ladybug food, dilute a little brewer's yeast, or bee pollen. Streak tiny amounts of this mixture on small pieces of waxed paper, and fasten them near plants. Replace every 5-6 days, or when it becomes moldy. Keep any extra food refrigerated between feedings.

Brewer's Yeast Suggested release rates for ladybugs vary widely - we've seen recommendations varying from 1 gallon (72,000) for 10 acres, up to 3 gallons per acre. You can't use too many ladybugs, but remember that they do take time - they need to be released early enough in the pest cycle so that they have time to be effective. For home use, 1000 is usually enough for one application in a small greenhouse or garden. For larger areas, a quart (18,000) or gallon (72,000) may be desired. Many people store them in the refrigerator, and make regular repeat releases, perhaps weekly. If ladybugs are used indoors or in a greenhouse, screen off any openings to prevent their escape. And, of course, you'll want to avoid spraying with pesticides, both after release and for at least a month before. (Soapy sprays, such as Safers, are an exception - you can use them right up to the arrival of the ladybugs, and indeed ladybugs harder outer shell seems to protect them from soapy sprays even afterwards. Botanical pesticides [pyrethrin, rotenone, etc.] are ok to use if you wait a week before releasing
May 19, 2012
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