Let the Hunt Begin
(Why beneficial insects really are beneficial!)
Release the hounds! Not literally, but I do want you to release the Ladybugs, Lacewings, Praying Mantids, and Nematodes. They are fantastic hunters and a huge benefit to your lawn, flower garden, and veggie garden.
These beneficial hunters have many things in common. They are meat-eaters. They never eat your plants. They only eat bad bugs. Ladybugs and Lacewings will eat aphids, whitefly larvae, mealybugs, scale, mites, and many other soft-bodied insects. Ladybugs can easily eat over 50 aphids a day. Lacewings are voracious and eat as many as 1000 per day. Nematodes are power eaters of bad bugs in the soil. They will eat over 200 insects such as cutworms, armyworms, grubs, sod webworms, fleas, fungus gnats, etc. They are the best hunters ever because you do not have to care for them, feed them or train them. Their instinct is to go where the food source is.
There are a few things you can do to make these beneficials even more beneficial. Be sure to release them all at night. Ladybugs fly away in the day. Lacewing eggs and nematodes can dry up in the hot sun. Water the garden. The first thing Ladybugs do when you release them in your garden is drink. Lacewing eggs like the moisture for hatching. Nematodes spread more quickly when kept damp. Release these hunters at the source of their food. Place Ladybugs and Lacewings at the bottom of plants. Ladybugs naturally crawl up. Lacewing eggs will hatch and the larvae will immediately eat insects dwelling on the plant. Nematodes need to be in the soil, where they can attack their unsuspecting food source. Praying Mantids can hatch right in the container but you have to release them right away so they don’t gobble each other up. Otherwise, place the Praying Mantis egg case in the crutch of a plant outside and wrap it with dental floss or thread to hold them in place.
Ladybugs don’t always stick around for a long time but this is ok! Ladybugs will feed for a little bit but most importantly, they quickly begin laying eggs on your plants. Those eggs will hatch and give you voracious Ladybug larvae. The larvae are very cool. They look like mini black alligators with orange spots and they are hungry for bad bugs in your garden. When the Lacewing larvae hatch from the eggs you released, these Aphid Lions have serious munchies and eat over 1000 bad insects per day. Lacewings can have multiple generations in one season. How awesome is that!? Nematodes have been known to hang around in the soil, eating plant damaging insects for 2 years straight. Praying Mantids will mate and lay more egg cases on your plants for next season hatching.
These hunters are so easy to have around the yard. You will barely notice them but they will be very busy helping you eliminate plant damaging insects. Let them go and they will reduce your need to use pesticides in your gardens, they will keep your plants healthier, and they will become an integral part of your garden community.
Note: The Ladybugs that you buy from Van Wilgen’s are not the ones you see inside your homes. The beneficial Ladybugs are native to the USA and do not invade homes.