Garden of Eatin' / Insects & Worms

Ladies Who Lunch: Using Ladybugs as Natural Pest Control

Ladies who lunch: using ladybugs as natural pest control

Aphids are my enemy. But when they attack, the ladies-who-lunch are all set to fight back. They’re hungry and they’re ready to feast.

As cute and inconspicuous as ladybugs seem, these predatory insects are a powerful defense against damaging pests in the garden. Instead of using toxic chemical controls, you can engage a whole army of ladybugs as a natural (not to mention inexpensive) means of pest management, simply by keeping them well fed.

Using Ladybugs as Natural Pest Control

Ladybugs spend their whole lives snacking on a slew of aphids, as well as other soft-bodied pests like mealybugs, mites, scales, leafhoppers, and the larvae and eggs of other insects.

An adult ladybug can consume up to 5,000 aphids in its lifetime! Think of them as Mother Nature’s pest control crew.

When aphids are scarce, ladybugs will feed on pollen and nectar. When all food supplies are short, ladybugs will turn cannibalistic.

Ladybugs feeding on a colony of aphids

Ladybugs (or more accurately, lady beetles, since they come from a family of beetles and are not true bugs) can live for up to a year, depending on temperature, humidity, and food supply.

They like to lay their eggs near aphid colonies and a female ladybug can lay anywhere from 50 to 300 yellow, oval-shaped eggs, all in small clusters on the undersides of leaves. The eggs hatch within a few days and the larvae will feed voraciously (up to 400 aphids!) before they pupate.

That’s 400 aphids in less than a month — for each larva! It’s a wonder how I even have any aphids at all with those little Hoovers.

How to Attract Ladybugs to Your Garden

As one of the garden’s greatest natural predators, ladybugs are worth keeping on your side. Hard as it may be, allowing aphids to live on certain plants ensures that ladybugs will continue to stick around and lay eggs.

They also need a source of pollen for food, so populate your garden with beneficial plants that have umbrella-shaped flowers, such as dill, fennel, caraway, cilantro, parsley, tansy, and yarrow.

I usually grow more herbs than I need, and let half of them go to flower for all the beneficial bugs. (If you want a more ornamental flower garden, White Sensation cosmos, Lemon Gem marigolds, Gloriosa daisies, and prairie sunflowers are strong attractants, too.)

Often I don’t use any kind of pest control in my garden because I believe the best pest control is the natural balance of bugs. If you attract good bugs like ladybugs and lacewings to your yard, they’ll take care of the bad bugs like aphids and cabbage worms. Keep them fed and they’ll protect the crops that keep you fed!

Linda Ly About Author

I'm a plant lover, passionate road-tripper, and cookbook author whose expert advice and bestselling books have been featured in TIME, Outside, HGTV, and Food & Wine. The No-Waste Vegetable Cookbook is my latest book. Garden Betty is where I write about modern homesteading, farm-to-table cooking, and outdoor adventuring — all that encompass a life well-lived outdoors. After all, the secret to a good life is... Read more »


  • Avatar
    July 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    I love your pictures! We are starting our backyard renovation and I’m so excited to get my garden going…especially chickens! Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      July 12, 2012 at 3:57 am

      Thanks Micha! Chickens will be so exciting… just keep them away from your veggie garden. This season has been particularly interesting for me now that I have a couple of choinkers (chicken oinkers) free-ranging in my backyard. 😉

  • Avatar
    Glycine blanche
    July 4, 2012 at 10:20 am

    Les coccinelles vont se régaler… Bonne soirée.

  • Avatar
    d's farmlette
    June 15, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    Your post came in handy today! I was harvesting coriander seeds and one plant was covered with aphids and ladybugs in many stages of their lives.  Cool to know!  Thx! 

  • Avatar
    June 14, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Great Article and Photos!

  • Avatar
    June 12, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    This is a great post! I loved learning about the Lady Beetle! I used to sell whole containers of them so people could release them at night in their gardens, in hopes that they’d lay their eggs there, piled on top of each other in that container they produce a buggy and undesirable scent from what I remember. 😉

    • Linda Ly
      Linda Ly
      June 12, 2012 at 11:58 pm

      Nature is so neat in that way. Ladybugs release that foul odor when they’re disturbed so they won’t get eaten by predators! It’s also a reason why they’re red. It’s a warning color that they’re unpalatable.


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