Ladybugs love aphids: using beneficial bugs to wipe out the bad

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Ladybugs: keep refrigerated.

I have these euphorbias (E. amygdaloides) in my front garden bed that get crippled by aphids every spring. Despite their aphid problem, they’re quite lovely, which is why I’ve kept them this long.  (I’m not sure what variety of euphorbia they are; they are the developer’s last remaining contribution of my garden.) For the last two springs, I’ve used a homemade pest spray to deal with them. This year, I don’t have time to be vigilant with the spray bottle, so I decided to buy some ladybugs.

I’ve always wanted to try using ladybugs to control aphids. I’d heard mixed reports on their effectiveness (the main complaint being that they just flew away once released). Of course, I had to try it myself.

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Considering that a single ladybug can eat 5,000 aphids in her lifetime, the bag of 250 I purchased from my local nursery was probably overkill for my small garden.

was curious: would they all just fly away, making a break for it as
soon as I opened the bag?
Keeping them refrigerated until use (it keeps them semi-dormant), I
released them after sundown (you can also do it before sunrise; they
navigate using the sun.) Following the instructions on the bag, I covered the euphorbia bed with an old sheet (it helps keep the ladybugs around long enough to figure out that there’s food to be had) and set the open bag in the garden underneath. Seconds later, they were on the move. Let me tell you: ladybugs are cute, but when they’re everywhere, it’s just creepy.

So, did it work? Well, the next morning, I couldn’t find a single aphid. I also couldn’t find most of the ladybugs: apparently they’d done the job and moved on, which was okay by me. Not all of them took off, however.

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Apparently some of them found my garden to be quite – er, inspirational.

Would I do it again? Probably not. At $15 a bag, they’re effective, but relatively expensive. And I think I’m going to rip out those euphorbias after all. As Eric of Gardening in Converse commented on a recent post, “aphids won’t be a problem in healthy plants.
They may be present, but will only kill a plant that was asking for it…They have a definite place in this world as a weeder of bad
genes.” My euphorbias? Asking for it!

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