Introduction: Ladybugs Instead of Pesticides

Picture of Ladybugs Instead of Pesticides

Have bugs taken over your garden patch? Send away for ladybugs to get rid of them without pesticides.

(This is less a set of instructions and more a set of tips for getting and using live ladybugs in your garden.)

Step 1: Ladybugs Go!

Picture of Ladybugs Go!

One summer I had a container garden on the balcony of my apartment. Most of the plants were bug-free all summer, with the exception of my bell pepper plant. Pepper plants, it turns out, are exceptionally attractive to aphids, and my poor plant was no exception. Rather than kill the aphids with some sort of toxic pesticide, I decided to investigate using ladybugs.

Turns out ladybugs can be purchased online relatively inexpensively. I purchased about 1000 of the critters for about $11. A simple google search turns up websites that will sell them even cheaper (between $5 and $10).

The ladybugs that I purchased came in a sack stored inside a box. They were kept very cold on their journey to my house in order to keep them inactive. Once they started to warm up the bag start to wiggle.

To actually use the ladybugs once you have them, simply tip the bag out onto the effected plant. 1000 ladybugs is probably overkill for one plant, but I couldn't find them sold in smaller quantities. Your local garden store might be able to sell you a smaller amount.

The ladybugs will live on your plant, eating all the inappropriate aphids and generally making the plant healthier. Don't worry about the ladybugs sticking around too long -- as soon as the available food source dries up (ie. the aphids) the ladybugs will fly away.


fungus amungus (author)2006-10-31

Wow! I've never seen so many ladybugs. This is worth it for the pics alone.

andres783 (author)fungus amungus2011-04-28

We went hiking to Yosemite this past october and we found thousands, i mean thousands of ladybugs while walking. They bunch up around folliage and trees and leaves on the ground. Just a sea of red, in clumps, EVERYWHERE. It was an amazing thing to experience, swarms flying, basketball size patches with every step. Crazy, amazing stuff.

GibbonsRock (author)2008-03-04

Hey Gang! This is a great instructible, but there's one more little factoid on ladybugs you should all know: (we use them to combat thrips, scale and mealybugs in our Chameleon Free Range.) That's right, we do controlled releases of ladybugs in our house. Anyhoo.

Ladybugs hibernate in groups of thousands and even millions over the winter- normally in caves and hollow logs up in the mountains, and this is why they flock to our warm houses and buildings in the fall. This is also how the organic pest control industry collects them: they search for huge congregations of ladybugs and bag them up and refrigerate them for the winter. When you buy ladybugs, the instructions tell you to keep `em in the fridge until spring, when you release them into your garden. This simulates the end of their hibernation. Seems perfect, right?

The problem is that ladybugs coming out of hibernation are hard wired to do exactly one thing: Fly away. Their instinct is to fly far and wide over the countryside, then settle down and find a mate. Remember, they used to be piled up by the millions in some remote area. They need to spread out or they'll be competing against each other. They've saved up a couple weeks worth of fat to do exactly that; and some entomologists estimate ladybugs can fly several dozen miles before settling down! Once they settle down, they will get to work- no doubt. If you think the ladybugs are voracious, you should see how effective their larva are. It's the larva you really want in your garden.

Here's how to get them: Don't immediately release your ladybugs into your garden, release them into a screen cage or supported mesh bag of some sort our of direct sunlight and let them fly around in that enclosure for a couple weeks. They won't need to eat, but they will need to drink, so put a few soaked paper towels in with `em. Let them fly around to their little heart's content and burn off all that winter-stored fat and THEN release them into your garden! You won't have a scale, thrips, mealybug, aphid all summer. In addition, you won't attract the ants that farm the aphids, either. It beats the pants off any pesticides you can buy!

Good luck gang!

Cheers! -Jim

georion (author)GibbonsRock2011-04-03

thanks for your info!!!! again Thanks !!!

marcward86 (author)GibbonsRock2011-01-29

good tip!
i got some ladybugs once, and had no instructions.
there was not a single ladybug left the next day.

skybeauti (author)GibbonsRock2010-02-14

Thanks for the information. Some of the best care for LB's that I have read on the internet yet!

ShaunHill (author)GibbonsRock2009-06-09

Ah, maybe this could be another instructable.. How to create an enclosure to encourage mating in one particular area!

hexalm (author)2010-06-06

Stumbled across an interesting instructable that people here might be interested in: Aloe as pest control: For anyone whose ladybugs have wanderlust...

nobodysfool (author)2008-06-06

I got bit by a ladybug the other day, though I´m not sure they bite.Maybe I was just high lol.

pyro13 (author)nobodysfool2008-09-10

haha awsome. Can these things bite you? Im not sure, but i don't think they can. Does anyone know the answer to this?

hexalm (author)pyro132010-06-06

They're predatory insects, so I'm sure they can. I've been bit by plenty of other kinds of beetles. Ladybugs mostly seem to go on the defensive when disturbed by large creatures, though.

nobodysfool (author)pyro132008-09-12

I was just kidding about being high, i really got bit by one of them.

sysiphus (author)2007-05-07

Please use these only when absolutely necessary! The Asian Lady Beetle was introduced to the US in order to help control the aphid population, but is beginning to be seen less as a helper and more as a pest. See

At my parent's house the infestation of these creatures begins in late September and does not trickle off until May. On any warm day in between, literally thousands of these creatures come creeping and flying out of every little crack in the woodwork. In large numbers, they smell terrible.

When ordering creatures, especially 1000 of them, please keep in mind that the effects may be further-reaching than originally intended.

AndyGadget (author)sysiphus2009-06-09

Nah, simple! You get Mongolian bug-muncher birds to get rid of the excess ladybirds. When these start eating the wheat, you import Chinese claw-cats to exterminate them and when these start attacking cattle you bring in grizzly bears to cut down the numbers! No problem at all. (What's that growling noise??) I was on St Lucia in the Caribbean a few years ago, and there thay had a problem with poisonous fer-de-lance snakes, so they imported mongooses to control them. The problem was that the mongooses preferred eating chicken to snake . . . Will we ever learn?

BigShotUK (author)AndyGadget2009-09-22

GREAT post, Andy. You got a genuine "lol" here. That really did make me laugh. Pat yourself on the back for some truly weel executed sarcasm. :D

zachninme (author)sysiphus2007-07-27

How do you know if these lady bugs are those Asian beetles, or the native ones?

sysiphus (author)zachninme2007-07-27
Taken from
'''How can I tell a multi-colored Asian lady beetle apart from the ladybugs (or lady beetles) most of us are familiar with in Michigan?'''This can be a little confusing because multi-colored Asian lady beetles are highly variable. While they all have the same shape they do not all share the same coloration and pattern of black dot marks. The color of their wing covers range from pumpkin-orange to mustard-yellow and even jet-black. They may have no black spots or as many as 20 of the ebony polka dots. In Michigan, the vast majority seem to be mustard-yellow and the number of spots range from zero to eighteen. Despite the wide variation in background color and number of spots, they all share a distinguishing mark on their pronotum. Viewing the beetle from it's topside, the pronotum is that small section that separates the head area from the abdomen (where the wing covers start). There is a mark on the pronotum that looks like a "W" or "M" depending upon whether you are looking at it from the front or rear. All multi-colored Asian lady beetles have this mark that domestic ladybugs lack.

I can also say that, at least in southern Michigan where I live, most of them are a color halfway between spicy mustard and rust, whereas all the native 'true' ladybugs are (were?) bright red. But I have not seen a red one in 10 years here.

in all my life I've only seen one Asian ladybug and I didn't know what it was up until about 15 seconds ago when I read your post. it really depends on your area. just make sure your not buying Asian ladybugs.

Well these "ladybugs" have surged in numbers here in michigan. It's ridicules. No one ever thinks long term on these things and now we got major probs with these things.

shellberry (author)2008-06-15

nom. (author)2006-11-01

I'll be honest, I always figured ladybugs munched on plants just like most other bugs. Are aphids their primary prey, or are their other pests they'll handle, as well?

NetReaper (author)jordan.day2008-05-25

ladybugs eat the bugs that eat plant, they are not herbavores

applesticker (author)jordan.day2006-11-01

From what I saw they were only interested in the aphids and not the plants themselves.

berserk (author)2007-01-20

Makes you wonder... who counts those 1000 ladybugs? ;-)

NetReaper (author)berserk2008-05-25


James (pseudo-geek) (author)2008-01-28

my word this is brilliant man, I'll remember this if I ever have an aphid problem.

jafah (author)2006-11-03

Asian Ladybugs have been used to get rid of Aphids from soybean crops. They worked great. The only problem now is the infestation of Ladybugs. . . I'm never certain it is wise to introduce one species to exterminate another.

Cat on my Lap (author)jafah2008-01-20

Doing a bit of quick and intelligent forestudy of an area helps when bio-remediating. It's how they essentially brought Lake Victoria back to life in South America.

diyguy27 (author)2007-12-31

I have (on the verge of being had) a nice bell pepper plant that I have managed to nurse indoors through 2 Buffalo NY winters. This winter, the aphids devastated the plant. I found a half dozen or so "native" ladybugs and brought them inside and placed them on the aphid laden leaves. They stuck around for a little while but tended to wander to other plants/area of the house. I then tried the soapy water spray. The spray definitely killed the aphids but the plant has now lost all of it's foliage. Next year I'll try a larger squadron of ladybugs before I bring the plant in for the winter. Where did you purchase the ladybugs?

Remote Man (author)2007-03-18

I have heard garlic spray is OK for pest management and it probably good your your plans, rather than using pesticides. You could probably make it yourself as well... I never would have thought of using ladybugs.. good job dude

VIRON (author)2006-11-03

Congratulations on successfully using ladybugs, someone I know tried and lots of birds came and ate them all.

tradergordo (author)2006-11-01

Ladybugs are great. But to get rid of aphids, all you really need to do is either wipe them off by hand or blast them off your plants with a hose. A soapy water spray is also effective. No need to use pesticides.

applesticker (author)tradergordo2006-11-01

Well, it was an experiment. I didn't really want to come into too much contact with the aphids, so spraying them or wiping them off didn't really work for me. Releasing the ladybugs took care of the problem and and was a really neat experiment.

Tool Using Animal (author)2006-11-01

Ladybugs are a poor choice for pest management, they're harvested from the wild in california where they gather in the mountains to hibernate, when released they're more interested in returning to their hibernaculum than in eating, a much better choice is green lacewings, both adults and eggs are available. Also, and no i don't remeber the source perhaps "Broadsides from the other orders" by Sue Hubbell, a study found only one lady bug within a mile of the release site after three days.

I know that mine hung around for at least two weeks. And they definitely took care of my aphid problem. Finally, I'm relatively certain that I bought my bugs from a new jersey company that stated that they came from NJ. I definitely didn't want to get bugs from across the country.

rimar2000 (author)2006-11-01

It's amazing for me.

HoraceWest (author)2006-11-01

I have used them a few times (in Florida), one thing to make them last longer, just use a few hundred and put the rest in the fridge and release another wave of them every few days. They will last a while in the fridge.

canida (author)2006-10-31

Did it work? Meaning, did the plant stay aphid-free after the initial ladybug feeding frenzy?

applesticker (author)canida2006-10-31

Sorry, I should have mentioned -- yes, they definitely stayed away for the rest of the season and we got some peppers.

trebuchet03 (author)2006-10-31

wow... you beat me to this :P I applied ladybugs to my garden this two weekends ago for aphids on one of my plants... I paid $9.50 (plus whatever tax) for 1000. It would seem they also like cilantro, but not Italian or lemon basil. I used the entire plant this past weekend for salsa and it was free of aphids :P If you are applying them to a larger area -- take a spray bottle full of water and spray down the plants you want them to go towards. When ladybugs come out of hibernation, they're mighty thirsty :) --- Needless to say... many were horrified :P

applesticker (author)trebuchet032006-10-31

excellent thoughts!

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