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Little Ladies Working Hard

by germinatrix | April 30th, 2009

a little lady posing on an artichoke leafa little lady posing on an artichoke leaf

We all want ladybugs in our gardens – don’t we? Not only are they our partners in Integrated Pest Management (using a multi-layered organic approach to get rid of the unwanted nasties), they are so CUTE!!!

eeewww! another lady checking out the aphid buffeteeewww! another lady checking out the aphid buffet

Children love ladybugs, farmers love ladybugs, designers love ladybugs – I’ll wager a sweet, spotted ladybug would win over even the scroogiest meanie with their cheerful good looks and impeccable work ethic. If it wasn’t for these adorable new-wave insects, we gardeners would be overrun by aphids, mites, and mealybugs. Yuk…

The other day I was tidying up my vegetable beds, planting a few tomato starts, harvesting some lettuces and herbs – and I decided I had WAY too much marjoram. I planted two 4″ pots last year, and they thrive in here in LA. My herb bed was overflowing – so I took hold of the roots of one of them and pulled it out. As I was chopping it up to give it to the worms, I noticed it was FULL of ladybug nymphs!

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I didn’t know marjoram was a such a great ladybug nursery! I always plant an excess of fennels – green and bronze – to give the nymphs a place to roost, but I have never seen as many as I saw on this now dead and gone marjoram. I immediately went over to the herb bed and shook the not-as-adorable-as-the-adult-version ladybug nymphs over the remaining marjoram. Whew… I almost committed mass murder! After examining the living marjoram, I saw a panoply of nymphs, empty skins, and ladies … they just love it in there!

ladybug nymphs and pupa are not very attractive...ladybug nymphs and pupa are not very attractive…

I plant to attract beneficials. What magic plants, you ask, will attract the buggy armies of goodness we want in our gardens? You can find lists all over the web that will tell you what plants will attract what bug, but I consistently see the old rule borne out in my own garden -ladybugs LOVE umbellifers! Parsley, fennel, cilantro, yarrow, angelica, queen anne’s lace, etc. Even plants that have similarly clustered flowers attract the ladies and other beneficial insects – asclepias tuberosa (butterfly weed), allysum, tansy, and I see them on my tagetes lemonii (pot marigold) all the time.

This is an extra fancy, extra spotty, extra sassy lady!

This is an extra fancy, extra spotty, extra sassy lady!

Now, I am going to state what I consider to be the obvious – please please don’t use any chemicals of any kind in your garden! We can all create balanced ecosystems in our backyard/frontyard environments – we can make our own compost that amends and mulches our soil, we can encourage beneficial insects to control the insect pests, we can let our plants go to seed and create food for birds (and while they are there snacking on seeds, I guarantee they’ll eat an icky bug or two)… these aren’t difficult things to do! These rules aren’t only for vegetable gardeners or for use in your vegetable beds … ornamentals should be treated organically too!

Just look at this incredibly spunky ally we have in our gardens! The sweet little ladybug – give her a home, let her do her job, and not only will you have a better garden for it, you will have a big smile on your face whenever you see one. Really! I dare you not to smile…

as cute as a bug!as cute as a bug!

10 Responses to “Little Ladies Working Hard”

  1. Pretty, pretty ladies! Who doesn’t love lady bugs! I’ve seen a few around the yard, but not nearly enough. I have paddle plant spikes that are covered with aphids (or some other nasty black creatures) and am very close to just yanking them out and saying bye. How do you feel about praying mantids? Do you like them better than lady bugs?

  2. Hey, Megan of Nestmaker sent me over here to check out your worm bin posts (I just set up one this week) but I got distracted by the cute ladybugs. I just read that there are some that are native and some that are not, and this is creating an imbalance since they may focus on different pests. Now I can’t remember where I read it, durn. Yours look like they might be Asian ladybugs, not sure though. Kind of weird when even the beneficials are suspect, sadly! I think there’s an OSU project to count the native ones you see – here’s a link if you’re curious: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/mg/sites/default/files/ladybugguide11.pdf

    Oh, I just remembered where I read about this – very good post from a very interesting blog, The Intercontinental Garden: http://intercontinentalgardener.blogspot.com/2009/04/spotting-ladybug.html

    Sorry, hope this isn’t TMI!

  3. germinatrix says:

    Chanchow darling! Fellow Eagle Rocker and Ladybug Lover! If you don’t have enough ladybugs to deal with the influx of aphids we are dealing with right now (I have them too, as you can see by pic #2) then get yourself a little bucket of them from the nursery! This can be a little controversial, because there are native and non-native ladybug issues … but I have to draw the line somewhere. I’d rather have an exotic ladybug working in my garden than having to use some toxic horror.
    Don’t yank out your Kalanchoe thyrsifolias! (isn’t it amazing how I know what plant you have w/o even seeing it? That is the power ofThe Germinatrix!) the aphids will be the banquet for your new ladybugs to feast on. If you plant the right plants, you will have ladybugs a-plenty from now on…
    I LOVE LOVE praying mantids – but I NEVER see them in my garden, even though I’ve put out quite a few egg cases! One day – it’ll happen for me. I hope!

    Hi Karen! I am so glad Megan gave me a shout out – welcome, welcome! Yes, it IS true about the native and non-native ladybug thing. But to be fair, the US government has been releasing exotic ladybug species since the early 1900′s , so the line between the native and the endemic have really blurred (like in the world of plants)
    I have identified 4 different species of ladybugs in my garden, but these photos only show 2 – the Asian (but you can’t see the identifying ‘M’ mark on their black masks because their heads are poked into the plants! Oops!) and the 7 spotted ladybug.
    Thanks for that link! I am going to start ladybug spotting(oh, what a terrible pun! It just slipped out!)
    And there in NEVER Too Much Info here at The Germinatrix – we LOVE lots of information! The better to make quality decisions with, my dear!
    Come back and visit again! Thanks for the great comment!

  4. Amen to all of that! People really need to know what the ladybug lions look like because they don’t resemble the adults, and I’ve seen many a gardener start to squish those babies.

    Now, about the Marjoram. I had no idea. I guess I better get a pot or two of it too. Living in the country, I have enough queen’s anne’s lace to start my own nursery and even pulling it up by the handfuls in the garden does nothing to all of it surround my fences. Ah well, we just have to work with nature and not try to make our yards look like a Lowe’s commercial. :) ~~Dee

  5. My very favorite plants for attracting beneficials are agastaches. Esepecially A. cana and A. foeniculum (anise hyssop). Last summer I counted 8 different types of pollinators on my anise hyssop at once. It was incredible. I looking forward to watching my honey bees pay my agastaches a visit this summer!

  6. germinatrix says:

    Hi Dee! Way back when I was a know-nothing garden dabbler, I covered a brugmansia with insecticidal soap over and over, trying to get rid of the horrible infestation it had! they looked like mini, spiny crocodiles! Of course, they were the ladybug lions – and boy was MY face red!
    I am going to start planting marjoram in the little dead spaces in the garden, just to add a bump of green, fresh fragrance, and a bug habitat. I love the flowers, too – they are subtle and unusual – and look great as an edible garnish!
    I wish I had Queen Anne’s Lace – it is SO gorgeous … but my place is too small. I just have to wait until I visit my northern friends …
    Your place could never in a million YEARS look like a Lowe’s commercial!

    Willi dear! I love Agastache rupestris – I haven’t grown the others … but it sounds like A, foeniculum is right up my alley (I am a fennel maniac). I’m going to add it to the mix!
    Oh, and your BEES!!! How awesome – I am thrilled about your bee adventures – and all the crosspollination that will soon be happening … (BIG SMILE!!!)

  7. I have stumbled on a number of nests and was fortunate enough to see the adults…otherwise I would have taken to fits of stomping.

    Another very cool nursery plant is parsley…which I read on Twitter was stolen from your garden over night (raccoons?). Swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on the plants, then these gorgeous black, yellow and white striped caterpillars emerge. And while it is true that they do eat your parsley, they also make the most gorgeous butterflies!

  8. Germi! I found you!

  9. germinatrix says:

    My new friend Jean! Who solved the mystery of the missing parsley! Those ladybug nymphs are severely ugly, aren’t they? What a metaphor for human adolescence – I certainly felt like a spiky lion-bug when I was 13, before I emerged into ladybug. I did afterall, come of age in the midst of new wave, so I can claim ladybug status … having worn alot of red with black polka dots.

    I ran out to the farmers market and bought 3 replacement parsley plants … I can’t live without it! I am a parsley fiend – really can’t cook without it. I didn’t know the anise and tiger swallowtails pupate on parsley! I have had a few cocoons of the tiger swallowtails on fennel – what a SIGHT, seeing them emerge! That’s one of the reasons I plant alot of fennel. I think I may run out and get a few more parsley now! Delicious AND a great bug nursery – what more can a gardener want?
    I’m so happy you stopped by!

    Wicked! Right on! It’s so thrilling when the old gang discovers the new blog … I should have figured out how to keep you all updated, but Domino folded so quickly and we were locked out of our blogging software… what drama!
    YAY, Wicked joins the new party! Welcome, welcome!

  10. Suasoria says:

    Hmm, marjoram. I never considered planting it. I suppose I should.

    I’m sure I’m not the only gardener who planted Queen Anne’s Lace on purpose, but I may be the only one not to have it self-seed and return. Pooh.

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