I came across a welcome sight in the garden the other day: this no-spotted ladybug (Cycloneda sanguinea) preparing to dine on the aphids infesting my milkweed vine.
Ladybugs (or ladybird beetles, as scientists prefer) are familiar sights to gardeners, though most of us first think of ladybugs as having black spots. However, there are many kinds of ladybugs, some without spots (learn more here), and most of them feast on smaller insects (like aphids or scale bugs), making them welcome in most gardens as a biological control of pest species. You can even purchase ladybugs at many garden centers or by mail order to add to your own garden, although there is some debate as to whether the ladybugs will actually stay around long enough to make this worth your while.
Want to attract ladybugs? Avoid broad use of chemical pesticides, even natural ones, as this will kill off ladybugs and other beneficial bugs too. Ladybugs also consume pollen, especially from plants with flat clusters of flowers – think dill, Queen Anne’s lace, and yarrow. Adding flower like these (click here for more) to your garden will invite ladybugs to visit, and once they’re there, they should be happy to dine on other insects. (An important note for butterfly gardeners: ladybugs will eat butterfly eggs and small caterpillars, so keep that in mind.)