Watching ladybugs grow can be an incredibly rewarding and interesting experience! Ladybugs, also known as ladybirds, aren't bugs at all. Instead, entomologists group these little creatures together with other beetles in the insect order Coleoptera. Not only do these insects provide vital pest control in gardens and ecosystems, but they also feature bright coloration and unique patterns to boot.
How to Find Aphids for My Ladybug
If you're raising ladybugs, you're certainly going to need something to feed them. As predator bugs, people often use ladybugs to help control aphid infestations in their gardens – and for good reason. Ladybugs positively adore feasting on the pesky little insects.
Even if your garden doesn't have an aphid infestation, you're quite likely to find a few while rummaging through the leaves. But you'll have to look carefully; these tiny creatures measure less than a quarter of an inch long. They have rounded bodies with a pair of antenna, and they can have green, yellow, brown, white, black or even pink coloration.
When searching for aphids, you should check the underside of leaves and along the stems of plants. When choosing which plants to search, you might notice some with yellow or misshapen leaves; this can occur due to damage from aphids.
Any plants with sticky substances on them might also contain aphids when you check closely. These creatures secrete a sugary liquid waste known as honeydew. Finally, you might also find aphids where you find ants. Many ant species love to feed on the honeydew secreted by these creatures.
Aphids for Sale? Can You Buy Them Online?
Collecting aphids can certainly prove difficult, especially if you don't have a magnifying glass. But can you find aphids for sale to feed your ladybug? Searching the web for aphids might prove difficult, as most suppliers focus on helping gardeners remove aphids rather than add them. You can find ample supplies of live ladybugs, lacewings and other predatory insects, but few listings for aphids.
For example, Nasco Education (see Resources Section) previously offered live pea aphids for purchase but has since discontinued their sale.
Other Food Sources for Ladybugs
Though ladybugs famously enjoy eating aphids, they also feed on other types of insects and even some vegetation as well. With over 6,000 known species, the diet of any specific ladybug species varies. However, most ladybugs also feed on mites, plant lice, leafhoppers, mealybugs and more.
You can also feed ladybugs certain fruits as well. For example, ladybugs sold in insect-raising kits often have instructions for care that involve feeding them raisins or similar fruits. With that said, ladybug kits also typically recommend releasing your ladybugs after a week or two to ensure they live a long life. Many species can live up to a year in the wild!
Releasing Your Ladybugs
When it comes time to release your ladybugs, you can do a few things to encourage them to remain in your garden for longer periods. This not only helps you keep pests out of your garden, but it also allows you to view your ladybug friends in the wild for a bit. Do keep in mind that it's quite normal for ladybugs to disperse a few days after release.
Avoid releasing your ladybugs during the middle of the day. When in direct sunlight, ladybugs typically fly away to seek shelter almost immediately. Instead, release your ladybugs very early in the morning or around sunset. Before releasing your ladybugs, spray a fine mist of water over the plants to ensure they have ample moisture. Let your ladybugs out near the base of the plants, allowing them to crawl up the stem and seek shelter in the leaves.
- The Old Farmer's Almanac: Aphids
- Pest Killer Pros: Where Do Aphids Come From? Exploring These Pests
- School of Bugs: Can You Keep Ladybugs as Pets?
- University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Ladybugs Need Special Care to Control Aphids in the Garden
- Insect Lore: Ladybug Larvae Quick Guide
- National Park Service: Ladybug
About the Author
Marina Somma is a freelance writer and animal trainer. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology & Policy from Monmouth University. Marina has worked with a number of publications involving animal science, behavior and training, including animals.net, SmallDogsAcademy and more.