Ladybugs, also called lady beetles or ladybirds, dine heartily on pests in flowerbeds and vegetable gardens yet never damage the plants, and the larvae are hungrier than the adults. But don’t expect them to be a cure-all: ladybug’s appetites are limited primarily to aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, scale, thrips, and whiteflies.
Attract ladybugs to your flowerbeds with marigolds, angelica, butterfly weed, yarrow, roses, and goldenrod. In the vegetable garden, good lures include cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes.
Buying ladybugs. Start with about 100 ladybugs per 1,000 square feet (93 square meters); if they have enough food and water, they’ll stay and lay eggs in a few weeks. Release them in your garden in the evening when it’s calm and they have dew to drink.
If it’s dry, sprinkle your plants first. Place a handful of ladybugs around the base of a plant where you see pests and repeat every 20 feet (6 meters).
If purchased ladybugs arrive before there are insects for them to eat in the garden, you can store them for three weeks in the refrigerator.
Keep ladybugs at home by offering a hibernation site. Pile dead leaves, hay, straw, or other organic mulch at the base of a fence or around plants to serve as winter lodgings.