Sometimes the nastiest looking bugs are the most beneficial for your garden. Because of their scary appearance they are often mistaken as the culprit doing the damage in your garden, especially because they are often found among curled and destroyed leaves. Other times they are the collateral damage of the war against garden pests. If you see one of these black, orange, and spiny, alligator-like critters [pictured above] don’t be worried, it is a Ladybug larvae. Don’t spray these little guys because they are eating the insect that is causing the damage. In the picture above you can see it eating its favorite food source,an aphid. Aphids are small sap-sucking bugs that can be green, yellow, brown, black or red and will usually cause leaf curl, wilting and discoloration of leaves on shrubs, small trees, annuals, and tropicals.
Pictured above are 3 of the 4 different life stages of a Ladybug. As you can see, the eggs and larvae stage have a startling appearance. If you see these, let them get to work, and please don’t spray insecticidal soaps or other bug killers, as this will kill the Ladybug and its larvae as well. The ladybug will devour aphids all its life right from the larvae stage, so let nature run its course! One single Ladybug can eat up to 5,000 aphids!
Many trees, shrubs, and perennials can withstand some aphid damage so give these ladybugs some time to feed. Keep a good watering and fertilizer routine in order to help plants sustain some of this damage.
By letting the Ladybugs and their larvae do what they do best, you are gardening naturally without the need for chemicals. Best yet, it means less work for you as these Ladybugs do all the work! If you would like to attract Ladybugs you can plant some of these perennials.
Perennials to attract Ladybugs
- Fern-Leaf Yarrow
- Butterfly Weed
- Carpet Bugleweed
- Spike Speedwell
So please, don’t judge a bug by its scary looking appearance. If we learn about beneficial insects we can help our gardens grow with little maintenance! Check back for our next installment of “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” to learn about another scary-looking beneficial bug, the Lacewing.