Ladybugs are beneficial predators that feed on harmful insect pests – and they are one of the good guys! In this post, you’ll learn all about ladybugs, including their life cycle, feeding habits, why they are good for your garden, how to attract them, and much more.
I write a lot about the bad bugs that feed on our plants, and organic pest control methods to get rid of them. But this time, I want to focus on one of the best beneficial insects out there – ladybugs!
Ladybugs will keep the harmful insects away from your plants, without much effort on your part. As natural predators of common pests, they are not only cute, but a good ally for any organic grower.
Having them in your garden is an environmentally friendly way to help manage insect pests, so that your plants can thrive bug-free.
So below, I will tell you why they are so awesome, and give you tons of information and facts about ladybugs, including different types, their benefits, feeding habits, life cycle, and how to attract them.
Here’s what you’ll find in this complete guide about ladybugs…
Facts About Ladybugs
Ladybugs (also called a Lady Beetle or Ladybird) are some of the best natural predators, and they are very beneficial to our gardens. They are one of the good bugs.
There are tons of different types of ladybugs in the world. They don’t have many enemies because of their hard outer shell, and natural defense mechanisms.
However, birds, wasps, spiders, dragonflies, and invasive lady beetle species are a few of their biggest predators.
Are Ladybugs Good Or Bad For The Garden
Ladybugs are very, very good, and you definitely want them in your garden. Unfortunately, many people mistake the beneficial native species for an invasive type of lady beetles.
Though they are in the same family, these lady beetles are not a native species here in the US. So, their populations have exploded, and they’ve become invasive pests.
Ladybugs vs Asian Lady Beetles
Since the different types of lady beetles look similar, it’s easy to see why so many people are confused about the difference between them.
To make it simple to ID the bad ones, Asian lady beetles are orange with black spots, and have a black “M” shaped mark on their heads. These pests also tend to bite humans and pests (though their bite is more annoying than painful).
Plus, they are the ones that cluster around buildings in the fall, and get inside the house. Native ladybugs do not do this.
Unfortunately they also feed on native species, which just makes them even more invasive.
If you’re trying to get rid of these invasive lady beetles, please take great care to target only their population, so you don’t harm your beneficial native ladybugs in the process.
What Do Ladybugs Eat?
Ladybugs eat destructive soft-bodied insect pests such as scale, mealybugs, aphids, thrips, whiteflies, and mites.
Sometimes they will feed on the eggs or larvae of other bugs as well. Both the larvae and adults are voracious eaters, consuming hundreds of pests a day, and rapidly cleaning out their prey.
They also feed on pollen, and can assist with pollination, but they don’t eat the leaves of plants.
Why Are Ladybugs Good For The Garden
Having ladybugs is a sign of a healthy garden! Since they are beneficial predators for many common pest insects, having them in your yard will help to prevent or get rid of infestations.
These useful insects are great because they help to eliminate harmful bugs, and control pest populations.
What Do Ladybugs Do For Your Garden?
They rid your garden of destructive insect pests, and help to restore a natural balance to the ecosystem. That means less work for you, since you don’t have to fight the infestations yourself.
It also means less pesticide use. When the bad bug populations are kept under control, people don’t go running to the nearest insecticide spray. Which is fantastic for all of us!
Ladybug Life Cycle
There are four main stages of a ladybugs life cycle: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Adults overwinter in plant debris, and emerge in the spring to start mating.
Adult females lay yellowish colored, oval shaped eggs in clusters on plants. They tend to lay them close to a food source, such as on a leaf that’s infested with their favorite prey.
The eggs hatch in 3-4 days, and the larvae emerge. The baby larvae grow to be about the same size as adults, but they look totally different. They look like tiny alligators, with black scaly bodies that have orange or red spots on them.
The larvae spend their days feeding on as many bugs as possible for 10-14 days, and then they will pupate.
The pupa stage lasts for about a week, then the new adult ladybug emerges. Their total lifespan is 1-2 years.
Different Types Of Ladybugs
There are more than 5,000 types of ladybugs in the world, and over 400 found in North America alone.
Depending on the species, they can be red or orange with black spots. Or they could be black with red spots. Many of them have spots on their backs, but some species do not.
Using Ladybugs For Pest Control
Of course you can’t force ladybugs to work for you. But, there are a few things you can do to enlist their help with natural pest control.
As long as there’s food for them, they will stick around. So, if you have recurring problems with aphids and other pests, then there are two things you can do.
You can either make your garden ladybug friendly, so it will naturally attract them. Or you could buy some, and add them yourself. Below I’ll discuss both options in detail.
How To Attract Ladybugs To Your Garden
The best way to attract ladybugs to your garden is to maintain a healthy environment that has an abundance of both bugs and pollen for them to feed on.
The easiest first step is to make sure there are plenty of pollen-filled flowers blooming at all times. They especially love herb blossoms, and single petaled flowers that have a flat surface they can land on.
Providing a source of water is also important. You can either leave out shallow dishes for them, or just make sure you’re watering regularly.
Most importantly, never, never use chemical pesticides. These insecticides will kill ladybugs right along with the harmful pests, and that’s exactly opposite of what you want to do.
A great way to increase the population of these beneficial bug is by purchasing and releasing them. Just be sure to buy a native species from a reputable dealer. Learn how to release ladybugs, step by step.
However, if you don’t have any problems with pests like aphids or mealybugs, then there’s no need to release them. If they don’t have ample food, then they will only fly away.
FAQs About Ladybugs In The Garden
In this section, I’ll answer some of the most frequently asked questions about ladybugs in the garden. If you can’t find an answer to your question, ask it in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer it ASAP.
What insects do ladybugs kill?
Ladybugs are natural a predator that kills many insects, such as aphids, mites, and other pests who like to snack on the plants in your garden.
Do ladybugs bite?
It is possible for ladybugs to bite, but it’s not very common for native species. If you’ve gotten bitten by one, it was probably the invasive Asian lady beetle. Those are known to bite both humans and pests, though it’s not super painful.
Are ladybugs pests?
Native ladybugs are not pests. However, when a non-native species is introduced, they can become a pest (as with the Asian lady beetle in the US). But most types of ladybugs are not considered pests.
What is bad about ladybugs?
There is nothing bad about ladybugs, they are very beneficial predatory insects. But non-native species can sometimes become pests.
Unfortunately many people don’t understand the difference between beneficial native ladybugs and invasive lady beetles, so they think all of them are bad.
Do ladybugs eat plants?
For the most part, ladybugs do not feed on vegetation. They are carnivorous, and mainly eat bugs, but can feed on pollen also.
However, it is possible for some species to snack on plants once in a while. But it’s not a huge concern for gardeners.
Encouraging native ladybugs to move into your garden is great for everyone. When you grow plants that attract them, you are not only helping protect from harmful insects, but you’re also keeping the native ecosystem in balance. So skip the chemicals, and utilize the power of these natural predators to deal with your next pest infestation.
- Attracting Native Pollinators
- Pollinator Friendly Gardening
- The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control
More About Garden Pest Control
- How To Control Flea Beetles In The Organic Garden
- 85+ Deer Resistant Plants For Your Garden
- How To Get Rid Of Slugs In The Garden Naturally
- How To Use Eggshells As Organic Pest Control
- How to Get Rid of Squash Borers Organically
Share your facts about ladybugs, or tips for how you attract them to your garden in the comments below.