While I have been enjoying multiple harvests of fresh, crisp buttercrunch lettuce, apparently the fresh leaves have caught the attention of a family of leggy, green aphids. Within two days, all of the bottom sides of the leaves were covered in these creepy crawlies.
I immediately looked up some natural remedies to keep from having to share my fabulous lettuce with these green eating machines. Some websites I looked through recommended to douse the plant with a sharp stream of water to knock the bugs away. I figured this wouldn’t be a very good fix since the bugs would likely find their way back.
Another site suggested that you could use diluted dish soap (a few drops in a spray bottle) and spray liberally. I read you can also use 1 tbsp canola oil in the soap mixture. I did not try this remedy, but would be interested to hear from people who had. I didn’t have any chemical free soap in the house, and I didn’t want to spray chemicals on my lettuce.
I also found information about using a homemade garlic spray to keep the bugs (not just aphids) away. The recipes I found were for large quantities (one gallon or more) and I didn’t need that much. I used just a pinch of minced garlic in a cup of water and put it in a food processor. I used a spray bottle to liberally apply all over the lettuce. I had moderate success with the spray, but the aphids persisted.
I decided to call in the big guns. What is the ferocious mortal enemy of aphids? Ladybugs. You read right, these cute, speckled beetles are an aphid’s worst nightmare. An adult ladybug can eat up to 1000 aphids a day. You better enjoy that lettuce aphids because I have an army coming for you!
I got online and read up about ordering ladybugs from websites. Some websites “harvest” ladybugs from the wild, while others are raised for the purpose of being released in gardens. If you have strong feelings about ladybug’s rights, then you can choose which option you feel is most humane. I figured that since they were going to be released to a lovely home where aphids and bugs were bountiful, it wasn’t a high priority to me how they were harvested.
The biggest problem regarding purchasing ladybugs from a supply store is that most of the time ladybugs will fly away from your garden. I looked into purchasing or making a “Ladybug House” since they are super cute, but from all of the reviews I read, they stated they were completely ineffective. Ladybugs have to be convinced that your garden is a safe place full of food and water droplets.
You can order ladybugs in a variety of quantities, I ordered 750. I knew that probably 1/4 of them would be DOA. I spent around $8.00 including shipping on these little soldiers. I got the package within a few days. They were in a small square, plastic netting package with a sponge in the middle. As predicted, about 1/4 of them were dead.
There were several recommendations for releasing the ladybugs, none of which I followed-surprise surprise. The company sent along a powder concoction of “ladybug nectar.” This was supposed to keep the ladybugs from flying away. I didn’t use it. Ladybugs use the sun as navigation, so the company suggested to release them at dusk to encourage them settling in your garden.
I chose the bright afternoon to release these red-coated warriors. Ladybugs are very thirsty after their journey so I watered the plants in the locations I knew I was going to release them.
I started with the lettuce planter. I cut a corner off of the square and let a few of the ladybugs crawl out onto the leaves. They flocked to the water and drank deeply. After I had a sufficient amount on the lettuce, I pinched off the corner and went to the raised beds.
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