Lady birds (lady bugs to Americans) have long been known as beneficial insects that eat aphids, pine beetles, and other annoying pests. Each lady bug eats thousands of aphids, so I have often thought about buying some to protect our rose bushes without the use of chemicals. Young Harris College is working in conjunction with the USDA Forest Service and the Georgia Forestry Commission to save hemlock trees from the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid by distributing lady bugs, one of HWA’s few natural predators. Clemson University recommends using them to treat scale on oak trees.
I tried to keep all of these benefits in mind as we installed our gate last weekend, but it’s hard to think of lady bugs in a totally positive light when working in a swarm of them! For one thing, they bite. It seems that the more yellow they are, the more they bite. And, as you can read on Garden Insects, “[w]hen disturbed, they may secrete an odorous, distasteful fluid out of their joints to discourage enemies.” I ended up with many bites and smears of the “distasteful fluid” any place they could access.
- Tip 1: don’t wear a v-neck t-shirt as they appear to be curious little critters who are less likely to find their way under a higher neckline.
- Tip 2: be short. Now, I don’t have enough evidence to conclusively say this is a benefit, but both my husband and BIL ended up with dis-taste-ful lady bugs in their mouths a few times while I did not. Maybe the ladybugs are misandristic, but I like to think my height (or lack thereof) gave me an advantage that balanced out the v-neck disadvantage.
- Tip 3: stay in the shade as much as possible as they love the heat of the sun, especially on a November morning.
If they are protecting our trees from pine beetles, I will come to love them again, …..just as soon as these bites stop itching!