Yes, really. Ladybugs are class A predators in the garden. They love to dine on all sorts of pests that in turn like to dine on our hemp. Additionally, they come in bright colors, reds and oranges, nature's "keep away" sign.
Employing tens of thousands of ladybugs at various times throughout our growing seasons keeps our plants healthy and free from damaging critters. Plus they are super cute.
what is a ladybug?
A ladybug isn't a bug at all. A ladybug is a beetle and is actually called a ladybird beetle. Thought to be named after the Virgin Mary in Europe's middle ages, the ladybug (we are sticking with its colloquial name) is also native to North America with 400 or so diverse species. Worldwide, there are more than 4,500 species of ladybug. Some have spots, some have stripes, some are red and some are black, but all share one trait. They are hungry, although a handful of subspecies are actually vegetarians, our ladybug friends are carnivores.
what do they eat?
Ladybugs kill and eat aphids, chinch bugs, asparagus beetle larvae, alfalfa weevils, bean thrips, grape root worm, Colorado potato beetle larvae, spider mites, whiteflies, mealybugs, among other insects. A single ladybug can consume as much as 5,000 aphids in its lifetime. A ladybug lifetime, by the way, is about a year, although some factors such as hibernation period(s), food supply, and weather can contribute to give them a slightly longer life span of up to about 3 years.
how do we use ladybugs?
We outfit each bug with a tiny transmitter, a "go" bag, and an automatic weapon. This way they always maintain situational awareness, contact with command, and hold the firepower to neutralize any bad actors in our fields...not really.
At various points in the growth cycle, we will release a few thousand directly into the fields. We only release in the evening and only after a generous rain or watering. We feel that if our ladybugs are going to help us, we should be sure to give them a little treat as they acclimate to their new home. As our farm is uniquely hands-on, we additionally keep an eye on what is happening with regard to unwanted pests. The reality is that ladybugs can fly and while we like them in our fields, they are under no obligation to stay. If food (pests) are scarce, they will move on. For us, this is a good problem to have. The fewer pests, the better our yield. But nothing lasts forever and continuous monitoring and re-introduction of new ladybugs is always required...and like we say, we just like having ladybugs around. Also, it is way safer for us than using cobras and scorpions!