Ladybirds may appear to be beautiful and harmless but, in fact, are ferocious predators with a voracious appetite for sap-sucking insects.
Aphids and other sap-sucking insects are common in our West Australian gardens, feeding in large colonies on the plant juices of the new buds and shoots on roses, fruit trees and other valued plants. Their presence is obvious from the shrivelled look of the new growth and the constant trail of ants happily tending them for the sweet honeydew that they excrete.
But inevitably, lurking nearby is the gardeners’ friend and the symbol of good luck since the Middle Ages, the ladybird.
Ladybirds are capable of consuming a staggering 5 000 pests in a lifetime and females lay up to 1500 eggs. Ladybird larvae will hunt disguised as the pest that they are chasing and eat up to 60 aphids or other soft-bodied insects per day.
The natural roosts of ladybirds during the night and over the cooler months of winter are crevices and cavities under loose bark, dead leaves and dense grass. Providing a safe haven such as a ladybird house to mimic these favourite hiding spots will encourage a resident population of these beneficial insects within your garden.
A ladybird house consists of a honeycomb insulation material on the inside with a louvered front door to encourage ladybirds to walk inside to roost. The house is made from environmentally friendly plastic and recycled cardboard and is perfectly placed in a sheltered position under the eaves. It is incredibly easy to maintain, only requiring cleaning once a year, and comes with full instructions and tips for best results.
Ladybirds are not just the beautiful insects that brought luck when we were children but are one of the most valued of all beneficial predators within the garden. By encouraging ladybirds to set up home within your garden you can reduce and control the numbers of sap-sucking insects without the need for pesticides. Now that would be lucky for our children!