Over the next few weeks, I will talk about different beneficial insects; the plants they are attracted to and why it is good to have them in your garden.
Developing an understanding of how your garden could live in harmony with insects and bugs is essential for every gardener. Now is the perfect time to get to know what the good guys look like and why they are beneficial!
Gardens take time to develop and grow – honestly, I would estimate a good three years until it’s thriving. Gardening is an education, and plants and flowers take time to establish and regenerate themselves year after year. But, when this starts to take place and creates a momentum of its own, Mother Nature truly takes her natural course.
By growing beneficial plants, you can start to bring a balance into your garden, which means letting nature take care of itself in many ways. These plants will attract beneficial insects, who are the good guys that eat the bad guys.
One of the best pieces of gardening advice I can give is a reminder that gardening and growing food evolves as time goes by – there is no overnight fix – and it pays to take the time to be still in your garden and just observe.
Beneficial Insects: The Ladybird
Why does my garden need ladybirds?
The ladybird is a beautiful insect and my heart lights up when I see them. Last year, they were my saving grace in protecting my plants against whiteflies, which they like to feast on. They also prey on Colorado potato beetles, aphids and scale. The 7-spot ladybird’s lifespan is about a year and in this time, it can consume up to 5,000 aphids!! Even ladybirds in the larval stage eat whitefly and aphids.
The exception to this general rule (doesn’t Mother Nature always have exceptions to every rule??) is the ladybirds you will see on your zucchini plants. They in fact feed on the powdery mildew and can even spread this from one plant to another. Not quite so helpful.
The ladybird is a very smart insect and will usually lay its eggs on the underside of leaves in clusters of up to 30. It’s a good indicator, as they choose to lay their eggs where there will be an ample food supply, i.e. where there are whitefly and aphids, so this is a sure sign your plants need some natural protection. The eggs hatch anywhere between 4- 12 days. The larva are, in my opinion, prehistoric-looking and can move around a plant very quickly, consuming many insects along its way.
After this stage, the ladybird becomes a pupa and transforms over the next two weeks. It emerges as a ladybird and, within the first couple of hours, its wings harden and spots develop. The spots on the ladybirds back are a defence mechanism to deter predators. If there is a scarcity of food, the ladybirds will eat each other; the older eating the young in order to survive.
How do I attract ladybirds?
Plants that attract ladybirds are Calendula, Chives, Coriander, Cosmos, Dill, Fennel, Feverfew, Static, Alyssum and Yarrow.
I am sure we can all plant at least one of the above in the vicinity of the plants that are affected by whitefly, scale and aphids. Go on, your garden will love you for it.
Happy gardening everyone