Archive for Monday, June 23, 2008

Lawrence set to introduce ladybugs as natural pest control

City workers spend a lot of time and money trying to keep the parks beautiful without using pesticides, but in some places, pests like aphids and spider mites are sucking the life out of plants. That's where thousands of ladybugs come in.

June 23, 2008


Garden predators

Let the bug battle begin.

In city-owned flower beds and planters across the community, a battle of immensely small proportions is set to be waged. On one side are the aphids, dictator-like insects that seek to latch onto and steal the beauty of zinnias and other summertime flowers.

Standing in their way is the city's new secret weapon: an orange brigade of ladybugs. That's right, ladybugs. Don't let the prissy name or the psychedelic orange uniform fool you. These armor-clad insects are fighting machines.

At least city leaders hope they are.

The city's horticulture division recently purchased 18,000 ladybugs that will be released later this week in flowerbeds along Massachusetts Street, in Watson Park and near the Union Pacific Depot in North Lawrence.

The plan of attack: Let the ladybugs eat the aphids, their eggs and their larvae. As a result, city crews won't have to use traditional pesticides to tackle the problem.

"Ladybugs are pretty efficient at this," said Crystal Miles, the city's horticulture manager.

A Montana-based natural gardening company markets a specific species of ladybugs to gardeners looking for a nonchemical way to deal with aphids and other flower-related pests.

City crews previously had used a chemical soap to deal with the aphid problems. But this year, Miles said she decided to give the more natural way a try since city commissioners and some members of the public have advocated for pesticide-free park zones.

"We really wanted to give it a try," Miles said. "The question is how effective we'll be. Ladybugs are things of nature. They may just choose to fly away."

The city paid $43 for the 18,000 ladybugs, which are shipped in a one-quart container mixed with sawdust. The container should treat about 18,000 square feet of flower beds, Miles said.

Greg McDonald, an owner of Lawrence's Sunrise Garden Center, 1501 Learnard Ave., has been selling ladybugs for about four years. He said he's not yet convinced that ladybugs do a better job than traditional pesticide soaps. But for people who are bugged by the use of chemicals, this is a viable alternative.

"Going pesticide-free, herbicide-free is a very strong trend in Lawrence right now," McDonald said.

For people worried that the city may be trading an aphid problem for a ladybug problem, both McDonald and Miles said they need not fret. This species of ladybug - Hippodamia convergens - is different from the Chinese or Asian ladybugs that have become household pests in some regions.

"Those ladybugs, in fact, give our ladybugs a bad name," McDonald said.


domino 9 years, 9 months ago

I remember my dad buying ladybugs by the the gallons to spread in his corn fields in the early '70's but think he only did it 1 or 2 years - not sure why - would guess it didn't work that well, but not sure. Thing I DO remember is that we had to let them loose at night - otherwise they tend to fly towards the sun and not stay where you want them.

bigdave 9 years, 9 months ago

Ladybug Power!!!!!!!!!!!! Now if we could kill all the bugs coming out of that swap on 31st street!!! Wetlands more like buglands!!

classclown 9 years, 9 months ago

Were these ladybugs raised organically and free range?

BigPrune 9 years, 9 months ago

Is it too difficult for the environmentalists to go out and catch the bad bugs and release them somewhere safe? Shouldn't this have been part of their volunteering to rid our parks of weeds (now long forgotten last I checked one of our weed filled parks)?Sounds like these volunteers are flat out lazy. Guess they must not be riding the T Bus either, since those numbers suck. At least we have $5 million dollars worth of bicycle paths so they can have a place to ride while we drive our cars on pothole filled streets.

nobody1793 9 years, 9 months ago

I generally hate quoting the simpsons, but here goes:Skinner: Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?Skinner: No problem. We simply release wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

Paul Decelles 9 years, 9 months ago

A couple of comments> The lady 'bugs' in question are a native species. There is also no guarantee that they will stay around the areas where they are needed. In particular this species often needs to migrate when they are released unless they have been reared in a way that reduces the tendency to migrate when they are released. See: more information.

madameX 9 years, 9 months ago

Marion:Nobody's "introducing" ladybugs to the area. As far as I know, we already have them. But by all means, continue to jump to conclusions and blame "liberal morons" for whatever it is you don't like. It makes you look so much smarter, and your point of view look so much more reasonable and well thought-out.

compmd 9 years, 9 months ago

Dear LJW,Please stop posting enormous, zoomed in pictures of bugs on the front page of your website. I have now destroyed three monitors in the ensuing freak-out when checking the news in the morning.-compmd

tunahelper 9 years, 9 months ago

DDT works great! I am glad that I can still buy it online!I love the smell of pesticides in the morning!

terrapin2 9 years, 9 months ago

What's liberal about using bugs to eat other bugs? It is nature doing it's own thing with a species of bug that has been around for a long time. Nothing chemically or genetically modified needed. And the immediate satisfaction and screwing with the environment would come from using pesticides, not lady bugs. Who's the moron again?

d_prowess 9 years, 9 months ago

Who would have thought that you could get 18,000 ladybugs for just $43.00?

d_prowess 9 years, 9 months ago

I don't like to be critical, but can people actually read the story before they comment? The story clearly mentions that these ladybugs are different than the ones we all experience problems with in our homes.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 9 months ago

Herbicides and pesticides may well kill the lady bugs.

stuckinthemiddle 9 years, 9 months ago

this kind of cultural approach to pest control is nothing new... there are just a lot of things that use to be common and made common sense that people have gotten away from...using lady bugs and other beneficial insects for controlling harmful insects in gardens has been going on for centuries... back when Sears & Roebuck use to sell just about anything a person might need, lady bugs were a popular item in their catalog...

favorablydisposed 9 years, 9 months ago

I thought we had enough ladybugs last year. Our house was constantly covered in them, so was my parents' and friends' houses. Why are we importing more? They were already here.

HW 9 years, 9 months ago

Horsegirl -More info please. Sounds like something I may be interested in. Thanks.

Tammy Yergey 9 years, 9 months ago

We use a type of bug around our horse pens which eats fly larvae. Works great! And no pesticides...

Janet Lowther 9 years, 9 months ago

Are these, in fact an introduced species? I'm not sure what the species was, but ladybugs have been around here for at least 40 years. A some years ago, there were news reports about the slightly larger, more aggressive Asian ladybugs displacing the native species. Since these aren't the Asian variety, maybe these qualify as reinforcements for the beleaguered native species.

JohnBrown 9 years, 9 months ago

First, aphids don't lay eggs; they give live birth. Second, this species in a native insect found throughout the 48 states. The "Liberal morons screwing with the environment " in this case turns out to be God.

gbaker 9 years, 9 months ago

I personally will sleep better knowing this.

RedwoodCoast 9 years, 9 months ago

When I worked in the gardening industry in California, the store I worked for procured natural pest controls through a company called Nature's Control. Mostly we sold predator mites that eat spider mites. Once we ordered some ladybugs for a display of squash we were growing that was infested with aphids. A lot of the ladybugs were dead or half-dead when they arrived, but several weeks later, we noticed ladybug larvae on the plant. So I guess a few of them did well. It didn't kill all of the aphids, though. There is even a product available through other vendors that is an insect-eating fungus. Spray it on the bugs or use it as a soil drench, and the fungus eats the bugs from the inside out.

cds 9 years, 9 months ago

I hope my chickens don't eat all the ladybugs.

compmd 9 years, 9 months ago

Multi,Yes, I remember that ad, it is burned into my brain. Instead of a TV I have a monster projector. Imagine my terror when I saw an 18" long silhouette of a bug on my wall. At least my engineer's blood quickly told me something was wrong, because its about 250 degrees inside the projector optics, and cockroaches aren't that tough.

Crossfire 9 years, 9 months ago

Find a bug that will kill chiggers. I'd buy a truck-load.

gr 9 years, 9 months ago

pdecell: "The lady 'bugs' in question are a native species."The link you gave showed a ladybug with orange wings. I thought the native ones had red wings like the description said."There is also no guarantee that they will stay around the areas where they are needed. "While the city isn't wasting a whole lot of money for this release, it does seem a little wasteful and non-thinking for them not to consider this.

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