Organic Pest Control: The Lady with the Ladybugs

You Have an Aphid Outbreak, Now What?

I have a little problem in my greenhouse.  At first there were only a few black dots on the miner’s lettuce.  I went into denial.  Surely, I thought, because it is December, I can’t have aphids.  But yes, indeed, there they were.  I was hoping a cold snap would come along and nuke them all and I could relax again until spring, but nature did not deliver.  Instead we got December temperatures in the 80’s.  Ignoring the problem wasn’t working and they finally swamped my plants so bad I could no longer let them have the upper hand.  It was time to make some decisions and go to war.  Because I am committed to raising my plants organically, pesticides were off the table.  Manual removal by way of smashing was only denting the population for a day or so.  I have heard of soaps and other things, but I didn’t want to wash anything off my foliage if I didn’t have to, organic product or not.  So, I turned to the ravenous wolves of the aphid world: ladybugs.

These are aphids infesting my miner’s lettuce. It started to have a big impact on the plant, so it was time to take action.

 

Predator and Prey is Nature’s Way: Beneficial Insects

What better way to fight fire with fire than to let nature takes its course?  By using ladybugs as beneficial insects in my greenhouse, I now have a renewable, chemical free army to do my aphid removal.  Nature provides a solution to every problem, and I feel ladybugs are the perfect example of that.

Ladybugs are a spray-free way to control aphids and are widly available at local nurseries.

Staying Put: Tricks to Encourage Ladybugs to Stay

I was in line at the nursery buying my ladybugs and the lady behind me remarked that she had bought ladybugs too, only to see them fly away into the neighbor’s yard.  Although this may well happen to me, there are a few tricks I have used that should encourage them to stay put.  First, I can simply shut the greenhouse door.  I’m lucky in that respect.   Second, I released them at dusk.  It has been recommended that releasing them in the evening encourages them to settle down for the night and not wander right off the bat.  Third, it is cool out.  Not freezing, but cool enough to keep them from being really excited about getting unnecessary exercise when the aphids are right here.  Fourth, and this is my own invention, but I have deergrass planted in my yard.  This ornamental and native grass is where ladybugs overwinter in massive quantities.  Should the ladybugs escape my greenhouse and inhabit the yard, I’m hoping they’ll be attracted to the deergrass and hang out there.

I closed the greenhouse and introduced the ladybugs at dusk. Goodnight, little ladies!

The Results:  Will Ladybugs Do Their Job?

Only time will tell if this plan will work. I will keep you posted on the results, as I am hoping this will prove to be an important part of my spring pest control strategy.  The hope is that they will stick around, eat aphids, and make babies.  If I have good luck, or even if I don’t, stay tuned for the details on how this experiment in organic pest control turned out!

6 thoughts to “Organic Pest Control: The Lady with the Ladybugs”

  1. While in line at Green Thumb I’ve often wondered about bringing home a bag myself – and while washing off aphids from my harvested cauliflower this weekend I thought of it again. So I’m very interested in reading what happens!

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