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How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden for Pest Control

Looking for ways to organically control pests in the garden? Ladybugs are beneficial insects that eat aphids and other soft-bodied insects in the garden. Learn how to release ladybugs for organic pest control.

Because scale became so pervasive in my beds, I need to do a lot more than just knocking them off with the spray of a hose.

I wanted to approach the problem organically without the use of pesticides, if possible because it can affect the population of native beneficial insects.

As an alternative to applying an organic pesticide, I wanted to release ladybugs in each of the beds to see if they would help.

And the result is amazing!

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The Benefits of Ladybugs in the Garden

Ladybugs are beneficial insects that eat aphids, mealybugs, scale, and other soft-bodied insects in the garden.

They are attracted to pollen-rich flowers that are light and bright in color.

While my garden has some native ladybugs, the scale problem is growing astronomically by the week and I likely won’t have enough to combat the problem.

David Austin roses up close on an obelisk in the garden -The Complete Guide to Roses Care

Where to Buy Ladybugs

After researching best practices about ladybugs, I searched local nurseries and online retailers to find where to buy them.

It’s really important to know whether you are actually purchasing ladybugs or Asian lady beetles.

Both look very similar but Asian lady beetles are invasive, so we don’t want release those.

To learn the difference, check out this article from Better Homes and Gardens.

garden urn planted with pink petunias next to wine and roses weigela and vinca -Happy Gardening Tour

If purchasing ladybugs in person, look at them and verify whether they are ladybugs or Asian lady beetles.

When purchasing online, I recommend reading the reviews, calling the retailer if possible, and really inspecting them when they arrive.

The last thing you want to do is release something invasive into the environment.

So please beware.

Garden blogger stacy ling with a container full of ladybugs to release in the garden

Why Do They Release Ladybugs?

Releasing ladybugs in the garden is an eco-friendly way of controlling issues without the use of pesticides.

There is a growing number of experts leaning towards not releasing ladybugs because more and more sellers are not actually selling ladybugs, but are actually selling asian ladybeetles.

Moreover, there is a growing decline in the ladybug population so many merchants who were selling ladybugs, are choosing not to sell them anymore.

close up of aphids on milkweed - early summer garden tour
Close up of aphids on milkweed

How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

Assuming you’ve purchase them, here are a few tips to releasing lady bugs in the garden.

Keep in mind there are no guarantees they will stick around, but hopefully some will stay.

  • Refrigerate the lady bugs as soon as you bring them home. I noticed they slowed down when they were refrigerated and perked up when they were at room temperature.
  • Use adequate release rates. I released 3,000 ladybugs in one night instead of spreading it out. If I were to do again, I would release half in one week then half the next to break it up to give them the best shot at working.
  • Ladybugs need a good supply of aphids or other food source. If there isn’t enough for them to eat, they are not going to stay.
  • Water the areas well where they will be released. Ladybugs are likely very thirsty or dehydrated from being contained. This will encourage them to stay.
  • Release ladybugs early in the morning or early evening because they will fly away almost immediately if released in the heat of the day.
  • Release ladybugs at the base of problem plants so they can find the food much quicker.
  • Expect most of them to fly away in a few days. To give it your best shot, I recommend doing a second and third release spaced out over the course of a few weeks.

For more detailed information about how to release ladybugs, see UC Ladybugs Need Special Care to Control Aphids

Garden blogger stacy ling releasing ladybugs in her garden -How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

Did Releasing Ladybugs in the Garden Work?

After following the above guidelines, I released about 3,000 ladybugs in my gardens around the base of problem plants around 7PM EST.

As I started watering, nature blessed us with a brief rain shower.

So that helped with watering everything down before the releasing lady bugs in the gardens.

Within twenty minutes of releasing them, I walked around the beds to see if they were still hanging around.

I saw several of them marching up and down my plants attacking the scale.

Yay!

ladybugs eating scale on a hosta -How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

The real test though would be how effective it will work over time.

The next morning, I walked around the beds.

I did not see as many ladybugs but saw several hanging around feasting on the scale. I walked the beds daily and noticed fewer and fewer ladybugs but a little less scale.

If I were to release ladybugs in the garden again, I would purchase more and release them weekly to see if it would be more effective.

Although it did not eradicate the problem, it did make a small dent in the scale population.

I’m not sure I would do it again to control a pest problem, but releasing them was really fun!

woodland garden with geraniums and oakleaf hydrangea

The Importance of Walking the Gardens Everyday

Since pest and disease problems can get out of control quickly, it’s really important to walk the beds every day and check out the plants.

I do this daily with a hot cup of coffee in hand and the dogs at my side.

When problems arise, I make it a point to address them that day.

Front yard gardens in front of center hall colonial house

Tour My Gardens to See What’s Blooming Today!

Welcome to my July 2020 Garden Tour!

(I updated this post in July 2021, to see my most recent garden tour, CLICK HERE. It’s amazing how different the backyard gardens changed between 2020 and 2021 so be sure to check it out!)

Everything looks gorgeous full and lush.

The gardens transitioned from pink, blue, and purple hues to the brighter summer colors of yellow, orange, and reds.

Scale was big problem in July 2020. Releasing ladybugs helped rectify that problem.

Front Yard Gardens

With every season, the front yard gardens look prettier and prettier as I make tweaks to the beds and the plants fill in.

center hall colonial home with gardens and landscaping for curb appeal -How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

This photo was taken in the early morning just as the sun was rising.

The bright orange daylilies are preparing to start their day!

As we approach my front door, we are greeted by fresh midsummer flowers that include echinacea, daylillies, balloon flower, moonbeam coreopsis, dahlias, knock-out roses, bee balm and globe thistle.

front yard cottage garden in front of black door of center hall colonial with wreath on front doorHow to Release Ladybugs in the Garden
Front yard cottage garden in midsummer

The garden is so bright and colorful, isn’t it?

I spent a lot of time planning and planting a succession of blooms that required minimal effort year after year.

They pretty much take care of themselves.

And then I tuck in some pretty annuals to keep the color going while the perennials fade.

close up of cottage garden with echinacea in front of center hall colonial -How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

It can be a lot to weed, particularly in summer.

But it’s totally worth the joy that it brings.

I tend to weed in the early mornings or late in the evenings when New Jersey is in the heat of summer.

Black front door with flower wreath, black urns on front steps with dwarf arborvitae and echinacea -How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

Oh, and it’s butterfly season!

Now that the echinacea is in full bloom, they are covered in butterflies.

To learn more about how to attract butterflies to the garden, click here.

swallowtail on echinacea in butterfly garden -Flowers that Butterflies Love

The woodland garden on the side of my house is doing really well.

The oak leaf hydrangea is in full bloom but starting to fade.

The cranesbill in front is happier than ever and I love this view of the backyard gardens.

Close up of woodland garden and geraniums, oak leaf hydrangea and ostrich ferns -How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

Backyard Gardens

As we head into the backyard, we are greeted by the fire pit and shed gardens.

Doesn’t it look so lush?

In this garden, the double flowering impatiens, knockout roses, catmint, moonbeam coreopsis, and dahlias are beautifully blooming.

My vegetable garden is located in front of the shed.

I’ve got lots of herbs and vegetables growing here that include basil, parsley, sage, rosemary, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and peppers.

It is so yummy to pick fresh herbs and veggies from the garden!

garden shed with gardens in backyard - How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

I love the shed garden now.

And am so glad I painted the shed a few months ago.

You wouldn’t believe what it looked like before.

garden shed with gardens in backyard - How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

From the deck, we can view the berry garden where I grow a few blueberry varieties, raspberries and blackberries.

Berry Growing Tip: If you want to grow blueberries, plant two different varieties so they cross-pollinate. They will not fruit without cross-pollination.

Backyard garden with garden shed and arbor -How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden
My backyard garden at sunrise.

My everblooming hydrangea is doing so well this year!

Remember last year when it had no blooms until almost fall?

To learn about why it had no blooms check out my two-part blog series on how to care for hydrangeas here and here.

endless summer Hydrangea in backyard by garden shed and arbor

One of my favorite spots in the backyard garden is the shade garden.

It is filled with different hosta varieties and hellebores.

As we move along the border, it gets a little more sun, so I tucked in some bee balm, joe pye weed, and plume poppies.

shade garden with hostas - How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

Next stop on the garden tour is my deck garden.

The deck is where I house almost all of my pretty container gardens and houseplants.

This is our favorite place to hang out in the backyard and we are out here all the time.

Outdoor dining space under gazebo with farmhouse table and wicker chairs and area rug with hanging pink superwave petunias - How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

And the last stop in today’s tour is the fire pit.

We love this garden and enjoy it often.

Here is what it looks like at night all lit up.

Fir pit at night with twinkle lights and tiki torches - How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

Doesn’t it look so pretty?

I’m so glad we added those solar string lights.

They work so well, brighten up the area and add lots of ambiance.

Fire pit at night with twinkle lights and adirondack chairs - How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden
backyard zen garden is blooming

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Shop my favorite garden supplies and tools HERE.

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Enjoy a beautiful day! xoxo

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close up of phlox and limelight hydrangea close up -
close up of butterfly weed  and nepeta in the garden

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4 Comments

  1. Such beautiful gardens Stacy! Loved the idea about releasing ladybugs. I haven’t done that in years.