Instructions for Beneficial Bugs
Care of Adult Ladybugs
Our Adult Ladybug, also known as the convergent ladybug (Hippodamia convergens), is the most common species of ladybugs found in North America. The adults and larvae feed on aphids, scale insects, mealybugs and spider mites. They will remain in the area to feed and reproduce as long as there is an immediate supply of food available.Releasing the Ladybugs
Your ladybugs are packed in shavings inside of a net bag. They should be released outside as soon as possible next to the plants that are infested with aphids. If you're unable to release them immediately, you can keep the ladybugs in the refrigerator for a few days. However, they will be hungry and thirsty, so be sure to give them a wet raisin to eat while in storage and sprinkle the mesh bag with water. Do not store the ladybugs more than two weeks.
For best results, release the ladybugs in an area that is infested with a food source for ladybugs. If you want your ladybugs to patrol specific plants, enclose the plants and ladybugs with garden fabric (row cover) for a few days. Water the selected area well so the lady bugs don't have to search for water elsewhere. Release your ladybugs at dusk when aphids, mites, and mealybugs are more likely to be visible. Gently place a dozen or so of the beetles at the base of each plant. Water the garden regularly, especially if you are experiencing dry weather.
You can encourage these helpful bugs to stick around by providing a habitat that provides food for them once they’ve cleaned up the pests in your garden. Plant pollen- and nectar-rich flowers, such as dill, fennel or buckwheat. Plant tansy, an herb with small colorful yellow blooms, to entice not only your own ladybugs but others in the neighborhood. Provide a hedgerow, windbreak, or permanent border to shelter ladybugs from wind and rain.What do Ladybugs Look Like?
Most gardeners are familiar with adult ladybugs. They are small, red beetles with distinctive black dots on their wings. These adult beetles mate and produce a new generation of beetles, which are very different in appearance. They are soft-bodied, alligator-shaped larvae with gray bodies and red, orange, or yellow splotches. Watch carefully for these ladybug larvae because they consume the majority of the pests. Also look for ladybug eggs. These yellow eggs are found in clusters of 10-50 on leaves and stems. You'll want to avoid spraying insecticides that specifically kill beetles when these eggs are present.
A ladybug, at left, and the less-familiar larval form, at right.
Care of Praying Mantis Eggs
A newly-hatched praying mantis
The praying mantis is a beautiful insect with a voracious appetite. These carnivores will eat almost any insect of a size they can overcome. They may wait for hours at a time to ambush an insect, always biting the neck first. At rest, they seem to be praying, holding their "hands" together.
Each egg case will hatch about 100 to 200 tiny mantises, all at once. In order to hatch they'll need several weeks of warm weather, so they can sense that summer has arrived. Attach the egg cases to a twig or plant about a foot or two off the ground where there's cover to protect the babies. Be patient. It can take up to eight weeks of warm weather for them to hatch.
When hatching, the young crawl from between tiny flaps in the cases and hang from silken threads about 2" below the case. After drying out, the long-legged young disperse into the vegetation. This happens within an hour or two, and it's very difficult to know hatching has occurred unless the elusive, well-camouflaged young are found. The egg case does not change appearance.
If you'd like to see when the mantises have hatched, place the egg cases in a paper bag, fold the top, and seal shut with a paper clip or clothes pin. Place the bag on a windowsill in direct sunlight. Periodically open the bag carefully, and when you see tiny mantises running around inside, take them outside and sprinkle them throughout the garden.
Once hatched, praying mantises begin feeding on small insects, such as aphids. Later on, they'll eat larger and larger prey. By summer's end, praying mantis can reach several inches in length. In the fall, females produce more eggs, deposited in a frothy secretion that hardens to protect the eggs from predators and severe winter climates. Egg cases are attached to twigs, leaves, fences and other structures. This new generation will hatch when warm weather returns.