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How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden for Pest Control

Looking for more organic ways to deal with pests? Consider releasing ladybugs in the garden.

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.

Why ladybugs?

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 by the week and I likely won’t have enough to combat the problem.

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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.

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

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

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.

How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

Assuming you’ve purchase ladybugs, here are a few tips to releasing them.

There are no guarantees they will stick around, but hopefully some will stay.

  • Refrigerate 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 hang around.
  • Water the areas where they will be released. Ladybugs are likely very thirsty or dehydrated from being contained. This will encourage them to stay.
  • Release 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

How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

Did It 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 release.

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!

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 enjoying the scale. I walked the beds daily and noticed fewer and fewer ladybugs but a little less scale.

If I were to do it 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

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.

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.

Front Yard Gardens

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 summer blooms that include echinacea, daylillies, balloon flower, moonbeam coreopsis, dahlias, knock-out roses, bee balm and globe thistle.

How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden
the

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.

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.

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.

How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

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.

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!

How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden
i

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.

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.

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.

How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

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.

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.

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.

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.

How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

Shop for Garden Supplies

Shop my favorite garden supplies and tools HERE.

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2 Comments

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

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