Photo courtesy of Matt at Flicker photo

We have all seen Lady Beetles in our yards and gardens. Around here we call them ladybugs. As a child, I’d let the little red beetle crawl on my finger and sing, “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away. Your house is on fire and your children will burn.” A quick puff of air blown from behind Miss Ladybug and off she’d go!
Now I need her back.
A ladybug’s main diet is aphids. Ladybugs do not eat your plants. Aphids are a major pest to flower and vegetable gardens. These sap-sucking insects belong to a family of bugs that feed on the juices in your plant’s stems and leaves. Lady beetle adults and their larvae are a natural way to help control these pests. According to the Home Garden Seed Association , Lady Beetle larvae look like, “Small, elongated, spiny orange and black alligators.” It seems like a fitting description, to me of these ravenous aphid eaters.
If you see ladybugs, your plants have aphids. These beetles won’t hang around your garden without their food source present.
Like any beetle, lady beetles can “bite” since they do have mandibles. The bite is like a pinch or prick. Some people with known allergies should avoid handling them.
Sometimes ladybugs find their way into your home to spend the winter. It might be nice to think you are helping the species, but these beetles belong outside. The best way to keep them out is to make sure cracks around your windows and doors are well caulked. If an infestation occurs, you can easily remove them with a vacuum.
Next time you see a ladybug in your vegetable garden know it is hard at work helping control one of a gardener’s worst enemies.

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