Ladybugs, also know as ladybug beetles or ladybird beetles, have fueled the imagination of generations of children as they playfully chant "Ladybug! Ladybug! Fly away home! You house is on fire and your children are gone!" With more than 5,000 species of ladybugs worldwide and 400 in the U.S., appearance varies from pink, yellow or orange to the iconic bright red with black spots. Known for its appetite for aphids, it has become a welcome guest in gardens, but few people realize aphids are not the only thing a ladybug eats.
The ladybug feeds on aphids and other plant-eating pests, such as mites, mealybugs and scale insects. One ladybug can eat up to 50 aphids in a day, explains Ladybug Lady, a site devoted to educational resources for parents and teachers about ladybugs. Because ladybugs devour pests in the garden, they are considered beneficial insects.
You may be surprised to learn that female ladybugs eat both nectar and pollen for the nutrients they need to mature and lay eggs. Ladybugs feed on flowering plants and legumes. In addition to eating insect pests, ladybugs pollinate flowers and vegetable plants when they visit the blooms to feed on pollen and nectar and carry it to new flowers.
Ladybugs are sold as a natural method to control insect pests in the garden. These tiny insects are shipped by quart or gallon with 18,000 ladybugs per quart, which is typically enough to control insect pests in a large home garden. If shipped in refrigeration, the ladybugs may seem to be dead upon arrival, but will revive when they warm up. They will need food and water before you release them in the garden. Sprinkling them with water and offering a mixture of honey and bee pollen spread on the screening of the container provides them with water and food they need to revive.
Supplemental Food for Ladybugs
Because diet varies among the species of ladybugs, offering a selection of flowering plants and keeping some flowers in bloom all season in your garden is an effective way to provide pollen and nectar for ladybugs. With sufficient food sources, the female ladybug will lay up to 500 eggs during her lifetime, providing you with the baby ladybugs you need to keep plant pests under control.