Ladybirds may appear to be beautiful and harmless but, in fact, they are ferocious predators with a voracious appetite for sap-sucking insects.
Aphids and other sap-sucking insects are common in our gardens, feeding in large colonies on the plant juices of the new buds and shoots on roses, fruit trees and other plants. You can tell there are aphids in the garden from shrivelled look of the new leaves and buds and the constant trail of ants happily tending them for the sweet honeydew that they excrete.
Ladybirds are capable of consuming a staggering 500 aphids a week and female ladybirds lay up to 1500 eggs in their lifetime. Ladybird larvae look quite ugly and will hunt down even more aphids than their parents. They are one of the most valued of all beneficial bugs so by encouraging them to set up home in your garden you can reduce and control the numbers of sap-sucking insects without the need for pesticides.
Ladybirds love the tiny flowers of allysum and dill so plant lots of these around the garden and don’t use pesticides as even the organic ones kill the ladybirds as well.
Ladybirds roost in the crevices and cavities in timber and under loose bark, dead leaves and dense grass during the night and over the cooler months of winter. Putting a ladybird house in the garden that mimics these favourite hiding spots will encourage them to stay in the garden.
A ladybird house should have lots of tiny holes in it and can be built out of lots of different materials. An easy way to build a ladybird house is to fill the space in a bird feeder with lots of pieces of bamboo that have all been cut to the same length. Pack them in tightly so that they don’t come loose. Hang it in a sheltered position such as under the eaves of the house but give it a clean every year to make sure that the spiders don’t take over.