Aphids and similar pests are the bane of many a gardener’s life. These destructive pests can wreak havoc on gardens and farm crops alike, and their effect on carefully cultivated plants may tempt you to reach for the pesticide. But if you’re looking for a less intrusive, organic method of pest control try making your garden more ladybird-friendly.
Ladybirds are natural predators of aphids and, with very few exceptions, won’t damage your plants. It’s even possible to buy ladybirds specifically for pest control. In some places of the world, ladybirds are farmed rather than caught in the wild, as this helps avoid the potential presence of parasites or disease.
Whether you decide to buy ladybirds or simply rely on attracting them to your garden, there are a number of ways to make your garden space more appealing to these useful predators. And as native ladybird populations are declining due to environmental changes and competition from introduced non-native species the worldover, you’ll be helping the ladybirds even as they return the favour.
The first step in making your garden ladybird-friendly is to cultivate plants that they favour. While ladybirds prey on aphids and other insects, they supplement their diet with pollen and nectar. Plants that particularly appeal to ladybirds include angelica, chive, coriander, dandelion, dill, fennel, marigold, geranium, tansy, wild carrot and yarrow.
Ladybirds also appreciate convenient water sources, which you can provide by placing shallow bowls of water around the garden. Remember that stagnant water can attract mosquitoes, which like to lay their eggs in shallow, standing water, so it’s important to refresh the water often.
Provide a safe environment for your ladybird visitors and protect them from their natural predators, such as birds and frogs, by buying or building a ladybird house to place in a sheltered area of your garden. Avoid the use of garden pesticides and insecticides, which will kill ladybirds and other beneficial insects just as surely as the ones that you consider pests.
One final tip that may seem counterintuitive: Consider cultivating decoy plants that aphids themselves like to eat. If you can strike the right balance, this can have the advantage of not only providing a sustainable food source for your ladybird friends, but will also keep aphids away from the plants that you’re actually trying to protect.