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Take Control of Aphids with Ladybugs

8/16/2010 5:50:24 PM

Tags: Taylor Miller, Garden Gnome, My Garden, Tips, Q and A, Ladybugs

TaylorSince my first blog on fighting aphids almost two years ago (When Aphids Attack) I have received dozens of questions on how to kill the critters when nothing else works.

So, if you’re suffering from an infestation, you’re not alone!

In May, one of our readers, Janie Iglesia, of Fisher Island, Florida, wrote:

"I have a young plant of 'Ají cachucha' (also known as sweet pepper) that was given to me to grow and to use for condiments. I got the plant in great condition free of any bugs, so I bought two bags of dirt to be used for vegetables at a local Home Depot. I planted my 10-inch tall plant in a big pot.

"A few days later, I noticed millions of white little bugs that will not go away. I was told to spray the plant with a water previously prepared using 1 gallon of water and 1 tap of Clorox—this did not help. I also sprayed the plant with Sevin ready-to-use, and still nothing. I was reading your article about using rubbing alcohol, which I will try today, but I wonder if these are in fact aphid pests?"

BEFORE: Reader Janie Iglesia noticed millions of white little bugs on her sweet pepper.
Photo by Janie Iglesia

Janie included this picture and, as you can see, this plant is, in fact, infested with aphids. The white “bugs” are actually skin casts from the growing creature. Creature is too nice of a word—these bugs are a nightmare!

Because she wasn’t having luck with any chemical solutions, I suggested that instead of using the rubbing alcohol mixture, which I usually suggest for small infestations, Janie experiment with ladybugs—the most natural and effective means of aphid, scale, mealybug and mite termination. After almost three months she reports that her plant has been saved!

AFTER: After three months of experimenting with ladybugs, Janie's plant was saved.
Photo by Janie Iglesia

In an effort to secure the ladybugs on the plant and prevent them from flying away, Janie created a net using tulle and two metal hangers opened up to create two arches that poke into the soil.

Ladybugs are cheap, effective and better for the environment than pesticides.

You can buy 1,500 live ladybugs for under $15 on Amazon. (Check out The Lost Ladybug Project.) You must release them at night at the base of your plant. If there is ample food, they will stay and even lay eggs killing every bug in sight. Genuine ladybugs will not harm your plants; however, you should always wash leaves any insect touches before consuming.

Lastly, if you are currently suffering from an aphid infestation, you may appreciate this bit of information I just found online: “A [ladybug] larva uses its sharp jaws to crush an aphid's body and sucks out the aphid's juices.”

Wicked, but somehow pleasant. Good luck!

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