If you follow me on Twitter, by now you know that our garden apartment flooded this weekend. Badly. The Boy and I lost about a third of our possessions, but we’re both acutely aware of how much worse it could have been if the plumber hadn’t made it out when he did. The garden is suffering, too–last week’s intense heat followed by this week’s deluges and heavy rains have meant damage and calcium problems. We’re knee-deep in homestead recovery efforts, but at this very moment I’d like to think about the one bright spot in my weekend. Actually, it was more like hundreds of bright spots…
And they were all a gift from The Boy.
On Friday evening he came home from work clutching a brown paper bag in his fist and wearing a grin as big as his face. And when I unrolled the bag and peeked inside…
Ladybugs! HUNDREDS of them.
I was, honestly, bowled over by the romance of his soul.
So why was I so thrilled with my bag full of insects? Well, ladybugs are beneficial bugs–they’re carnivores, and they’re pretty much non-discriminating about it. They’ll eat any bad guys they can possibly find with no picky whining and no asking for ketchup. In fact, I once read that a single ladybug can eat over 5,000 aphids in its lifetime. If you’re anything like me, that little fact alone was enough to sell you on adding ladybuggers to your garden because HELLO THOSE FUCKING APHIDS NEARLY DECIMATED THE NIGHTSHADES AND THEY SHALL PAY FOR THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS. But if you’re looking for another cute fact, I gotses one!
Did you know that ladybugs bleed from their knees when they feel threatened?
Aww, that’s the CUTEST!
Okay, now for a fact that isn’t so cute: cannibalism. Did you know ladybugs are capable of cannibalism when they’re out of other bugs?
What a Bummer.
Well, that won’t happen at this homestead, that’s for sure. Between the cabbage moths and the aphids and all the assorted THINGS, my ladybugs should be set for quite some time.
Now haven’t I made you want to release ladybuggers into your gardens? Don’t you misfits think you need littler misfits? Don’t you want the newest and cutest garden accessory around? The one that comes in polka-dots?
Of courses you do! I mean, come on. I can make you weirder yet.
So here are My Almighty Ladybug Tips and Hints:
*Get ‘em from a reputable, preferably local nursery. You want to make sure that you’re not introducing an invasive species that could compete with local ladybugs. And buying from a reputable source helps to ensure that you’re not getting weak or diseased bugs.
*Newly released ladybugs are often cranky and parched from their travels. Remember how cranky and parched YOU feel after a 7 hour flight in a tiny seat in a tiny, airless cabin with too many cranky and parched strangers? Yeah, it’s like that. So release ladybugs after a rain, or water the earth well before releasing them. Of course if you’re like me and you just had a flood you would laugh at this advice and go AHAHA LISTEN LADY WATER ISN’T EXACTLY MY PROBLEM MMMKAAAAAY? But. I. Digress.
*Diversify your ladybugs’ dietary portfolio. That’s right–if your garden doesn’t seem hospitable, your ladybugs just may peek under the fence at the neighboring yards, turn to you in frustration with their little ladybug “hands” on their little ladybug “hips,” put on their best Eric Cartman voice, and screech, “Screw you guys! I’m going home!” That is, someone else’s home. Dammit. So when you’re releasing them, resist the urge to dump the bag in one place. Instead, sprinkle them throughout the garden. Same goes for containers–distribute them as evenly as possible.
*Release your ladybugs when it’s starting to get dark out. That makes them less likely to be all, oh, hey, let’s run as far away from here as possible, even if that means leaving the yard and blowing this loser’s investment. Yeah.
*Cold air makes them slower and calmer–hence, releasing them becomes easier if you chill them in the fridge for a wee bit before letting them roam free.
*If some of your ladies don’t want to leave their bag, turn it upside down and tap gently. If they still won’t leave, why not place the bag on an area of moist ground and just walk away? Come back in the morning–once you’re out of the picture and your bugginses have had a chance to review their options, I’m sure they’ll come to the conclusion that OH, HEY, LEAVES AND INSECTS AND WATER ARE PREFERABLE TO THIS DARK, DANK, BARREN HELL BAG. But that’s just a hunch.
*Check your hair, body, and clothes for stowaway ladies before heading back inside. If nothing else, the process of picking off the clingers just may have you giggling in delight all by your lonesome, and if there’s one thing we urban homesteaders need, it’s YET ANOTHER REASON THE NEIGHBORS THINK WE’RE STRANGE AND/OR DANGEROUS.
Well, whaddya think? Anyone ’bout to head out for some ladybugs? Done it before? Think they’re weird? Think they’re cute? Wanna dress up like them? Wanna marry them?
© 2011, Genevieve P. Charet. All rights reserved.