Five Things You Need To Know About Releasing Ladybugs in the Landscape

Ladybugs make for great natural pest control in your landscape since they feed on other insects to survive. But before you set them free to feed, follow our five tips for a successful release.

Many gardeners and landscape enthusiasts love to incorporate ladybugs (lady beetles) as a biological control strategy in their integrated pest management program. However, there are a handful of factors that must be taken into account if you’re going to have a successful ladybug release in your garden or landscape.

Is there food in the landscape for ladybugs?

Ladybugs are predators, they feed on other insects to survive. In this case, ladybugs feed on aphids and mealybugs (both are sap-sucking insect pests), insect eggs, small caterpillars and mites. The most common ladybug for purchase is the convergent ladybug (Hippodamia convergens). They have two white lines on the top of their head that slant towards each other, as if they’re converging.

If you’re releasing ladybugs in your landscape because you love watching them, but there aren’t any insects on which they can feed, the ladybugs will go elsewhere in search of nourishment, leaving you holding the (empty) bag. Let’s talk about some things you can do to have the best chance to keep ladybugs in your landscape after releasing them.

What time of day should you release ladybugs?

Ladybugs are collected in areas where they hibernate and have usually been in cold storage until they are to be released. Keep ladybugs in the refrigerator until you’re ready to release them. It helps them live longer and you’ll have less mortality when it’s time for them to fly and be free. Once ladybugs warm up, their first impulse is to disperse and seek food and water to replenish their energy reserves. If you release ladybugs during the day, they disperse AWAY from your landscape, leaving you sad and wondering where all of the ladybugs went!

Here are some tips to have a successful ladybug release in your landscape:

  1. Place the ladybug container near plants with heavy populations of pest insects (aphids, mealybugs) on which the ladybugs will feed and lay eggs.
  2. Release ladybugs in the early evening when temperatures are cooler. Consider opening their container under a box and leaving there during the night.
  3. Spritz the surrounding vegetation with a mist of water so they can hydrate while acclimating to the area overnight. If there is dew, the spritz of water isn’t necessary. Some experts even recommend a spritz of water inside of their container in lieu of applying it to vegetation.
  4. Consider placing an index card with a few drops of honey on it near the ladybug container while leaving it overnight. Ladybugs will feed on the honey as a quick energy source until they start eating aphids.
  5. DO NOT release ladybugs during the day or in the mornings.

You can purchase ladybugs from online sources or local nurseries. If going local, call around to make sure the nursery has ladybugs for purchase. Follow these simple methods and maybe you’ll keep those ladybugs around your landscape a little longer!

Picture of Nathan Riggs
Nathan Riggs
Nathan Riggs is a SAWS project coordinator and licensed irrigator who also happens to have a degree in entomology from Texas A&M University. Yes, Nathan’s a bug expert, and not just on water bugs! When he’s not hard at work on SAWS conservation projects, he enjoys a wide variety of interests including: landscaping, hiking, photography of flowers, insects and other critters, and planning his next adventure with his wife Ella and family.
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