Did you know a ladybird (or ladybug) is a type of beetle and their colour lets its predators know that it may taste bad or be poisonous? But more important, in the garden the ladybird is a natural predator, eating up to 50 mites, aphids, mealy bugs and/or scale per day, living as long as one year and even two years in extreme cases.
When a ladybird lays its eggs, she lays them in clusters, and the eggs are usually yellow or orange. They come out of the egg after about four days as larvae and resemble black alligators. When it has eaten too much their skin becomes tight, and they shed it. This is called moulting. After moulting four times, it becomes a pupa. The pupa sticks itself to a safe place where it will not move. The pupa breaks open after a week or two as a ladybird. The ladybird body goes from being soft with no spots to the hardened and (normally) spotted ladybirds we are familiar with, although some ladybirds are not spotted.
So what can we do to attract more ladybirds to the garden?
The number one thing to help attract ladybirds to your garden is food. Glorious food and plenty of it. Ladybirds eat two things: insect pests and pollen. In fact, they need both to survive and when these things are in abundance, ladybirds will happily relocate to your garden and enjoy everything on offer. There are numerous plants you can grow to help attract them. Flowers and herbs such as coriander, dill, fennel, tansy, angelica, coreopsis and cosmos are good choices for luring the ladybird.
Provide a Habitat:
During winter ladybirds like to hibernate together to stay warm. A ladybird’s habitat must also provide a food source for adults and larvae, as well as a safe place for their eggs and the pupae to survive.
After the ladybird emerges from the pupa they begin feeding purposefully for the next several weeks, prior to finding a safe sheltered site for hibernating over the cold winter months. They will stay in a dormant state until the weather begins to warm up in early spring. Once the temperature is near 16°C, the ladybirds become active, and the hunt will begin to eat your aphids and mites once more.