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Don’t Buy Ladybugs: Learn How to Attract Them Instead

Ladybug on bolted dill
Ladybug on bolted dill

In my garden, observing ladybugs has become a source of endless fascination. Watching all stages of their life cycle on flowering parsley, dill, and cilantro—witnessing larvae hatch out of eggs and pointing out the different stages to garden visitors—is magical. The arrival of ladybugs on aphid-infested roses or sunflowers is profoundly gratifying. Their presence is a vivid reminder of nature’s marvels and the intricate balance of ecosystems.

Ladybug eggs, ladybug larvae, ladybug pupa, and adult ladybug
Ladybug eggs, ladybug larvae, ladybug pupa, and adult ladybug

It’s no wonder many home gardeners consider buying these cheerful beetles. However, you should think twice before purchasing a tub of ladybugs to bring home as a quick fix for pest control. Purchased ladybugs will probably not solve your pest problem and could do more harm than good. Let’s discuss why buying ladybugs is a bad idea and, instead, learn how to attract ladybugs to come to your garden naturally.


5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy Ladybugs For Your Garden

Should I Buy Ladybugs for My Garden?

1. Ladybug Harvesting Practices are Questionable

Should I Buy Ladybugs for My Garden?

The commercial harvesting of ladybugs often raises ethical concerns. Most ladybugs sold at local garden centers are convergent ladybugs (Hippodamia convergens), which are frequently harvested in the wild and shipped all over the country. 1


2. Removal is Disruptive to the Native Environment

Ladybug on a starflower plant
Ladybug on a starflower plant

When ladybugs are removed from their natural environment, the delicate balance of that ecosystem can be disturbed. Collecting them not only disturbs wild populations but may spread diseases to the native ladybug species in your garden. The wild collection of ladybugs may have unforeseen adverse effects on the ladybugs themselves and the broader environment. 1


3. Purchased Ladybugs are Usually in the Adult Stage

Should I Buy Ladybugs for My Garden?

Ladybugs sold for gardens are typically adults. The adult stage is the least effective stage for pest control. Adults often consume up to 50 aphids per day, but ladybug larvae are voracious eaters and will consume 200-300. 2


4. Introduced Ladybugs Often Fly Away

Purchased ladybugs may fly away once released
Purchased ladybugs may fly away once released

There’s no guarantee they will stay in your garden once released. Ladybugs are often disoriented or scared after being collected, stuck in deep freezes, and shipped to your local garden center or home. Instead of using their energy to reproduce, they often fly away and die.


5. Purchased Ladybugs Could Include Invasive Varieties

Asian Lady beetle
Asian lady beetle

There’s also the risk of introducing invasive species of ladybugs to your area. Asian lady beetles may be mixed in. Introduced beetles often become the dominant species and may consume native ladybugs. 3


6 Ways To Attract Ladybugs To Your Garden Naturally

Ladybug on bolted dill
Ladybug on bolted dill

Rather than buying ladybugs, there are better ways to attract these beneficial insects to your garden.


1. Stop Using Pesticides

Ladybug larvae
Ladybug larvae on bolted dill

Pesticides kill not only pests but also beneficial insects that prey on them. By avoiding these chemicals, you make your garden a safer place for ladybugs.


2. Use Organic Options Infrequently and With a Light Hand

Ladybug on bolted cilantro

If you must use pest control, opt for organic solutions and apply them sparingly. This approach helps preserve beneficial insects while managing pests. Avoid neem oil, which can interrupt bugs’ biological processes and is not good for beneficial insects.


3. Attract Ladybugs by Planting a Variety of Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers

Planting a wide range of plants in your garden will attract ladybugs. One simple way to increase biodiversity is to plant a flower and an herb in each bed or area of your garden. Plants attractive to ladybugs include anise, chamomile, cosmos, daisies, feverfew, lovage, and yellow coneflower. 3 They also like companion plants like calendula, alyssum, and marigolds. (Click on the names for seeds and growing information.)


4. Allow Herbs to Bolt and Flower to Attract Ladybugs

Ladybugs on bolted dill
Ladybugs on bolted dill

When herbs are allowed to flower, they become irresistible to ladybugs. The flowers provide nectar and pollen, essential food sources for adult beetles to survive and reproduce.3 Cilantro, dill, parsley, and fennel are favorite choices for adult ladybugs.


5. Don’t Eliminate All Pests From Your Garden to Attract Ladybugs

Aphids and a ladybug on a sunflower
Aphids and a ladybug on a sunflower

While it seems counterintuitive, maintaining a small population of pests can be beneficial. It ensures that ladybugs have a steady food source. Don’t be too quick to spray off aphids or remove pests. Instead, wait and watch. More than likely, the beneficial insects, including ladybugs, will arrive.

Ladybugs on cilantro

The list of pests that ladybugs consume is long and includes aphids, asparagus beetle larvae, caterpillar eggs, young caterpillars, Colorado potato beetle larvae, corn earworms, lace bugs, whiteflies, spider mites, and mealy bugs. 3


6. Having Areas of Your Garden That Grow a Little Wild Will Attract Ladybugs

Ladybugs thrive in untamed environments. Allowing parts of your garden to grow wild provides shelter and breeding grounds. Plants such as dandelions, yarrows, and wild carrots will attract them to these areas.4 The results are cumulative and not instantaneous. The untamed area can be as large or small as your garden space allows.

Ladybugs often hibernate or overwinter in hollow stems, so leaving old stems in place gives them a reason to stay in your yard.

Ladybug eggs on bolted cilantro
Ladybug eggs on bolted cilantro

A Look to the Future of Beneficial Insects as Pest Control

While buying ladybugs might not be the best current practice for enhancing your garden’s ecology, there’s hope on the horizon. There is future potential for introducing two-spotted ladybugs in the larval stage. This could offer a more sustainable way to benefit from these incredible insects.

Lacewing eggs on cilantro

For now, instead of ladybugs, you may consider introducing other beneficial insects through programs like the Beneficial Insect Subscription from Heirloom Roses. This augementave biological control may provide an effective and eco-friendly solution to pest control challenges.

Green Lacewing Eggs on Card from Heirloom Roses
Green Lacewing Eggs on Card from Heirloom Roses

In conclusion, while buying ladybugs for immediate pest control is tempting, encouraging them to visit and stay in your garden naturally is a more effective, sustainable, and magical experience.

By fostering an environment that’s inviting to ladybugs, you’re aiding in pest control and contributing to the health of your local ecosystem without the unintended consequences that may come from buying ladybugs.


References and Further Reading

  1. Plant Partners, Science-Based Companion Planting Strategies for the Vegetable Garden, Jessica Walliser.
  2. Lady Beetles” – Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. A comprehensive guide on ladybug species, their roles in the ecosystem, and the consequences of importing non-native species
  3. Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden, A Natural Approach to Pest Control, Jessica Walliser.
  4. The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control, A Rodale Organic Gardening Book. Edited by Fern Marshall Bradley, Barbara W. Ellis, and Deborah L. Martin.

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