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Beneficial Insects
text version

Lady Bugs, Praying Mantids & Earthworms

 

LADY BUGS

Use
Ladybugs prefer to eat aphids and will devour up to 50 a day, but they will also attack scale, mealy bugs, boll worm, leaf hopper, and corn ear worm. They dine only on insects and do not harm vegetation in any way.

Release
Ladybugs should always be released after sundown since they only fly in the daytime. During the night, they will search the area for food and stay as long as there is food for them to eat. The more they eat, the more eggs they lat and the more insect-eating larvae you will have. It is best if the area has been recently watered. Ladybugs tend to crawl up and toward light. So release them in small groups at the base of plants and shrubs that have aphids or other insects, and in the lower parts of trees.

Recommendations
Ladybugs may be kept in a refrigerator after they are received (35-40E F) and released as needed. Ladybugs received March through May should not be stored more than 2 to 3 days since their body fat has been depleted. From June on, they may be stored 2 or 3 months.

It is normal for there to be several dead Ladybugs in the container, especially those received from March through May. These bugs have reached the end of their life cycle.

Life Cycle
Ladybugs mate in the Spring and lay yellow eggs in cluster of 10 to 50 on the underside of leaves. About five days later the larvae emerge and will eat about 400 aphids during their 2 week cycle. The larvae look like tiny black caterpillars with orange spots but do not eat vegetation.

The larvae then pupate and emerge from their cocoon as adults after about a week. They begin feeding on aphids, other insects, and pollen to build up their body fat. In the summer and fall the ladybugs migrate into the mountains and during the winter they lie dormant under the snow. In the early Spring they fly back down to the lowlands to resume searching for food in earnest. They begin mating, lay eggs and die.

PRAYING MANTIDS

Use
Praying Mantids eat a wide variety of garden pests. In their younger stages they eat aphids, thrips, flies & maggots, small caterpillars, leafhoppers, white grubs and other soft-bodied insects. Mature Mantids feed on larger caterpillars, earwigs, chinch bugs, sow bugs, beetles, grasshoppers and other large insects.

Release
Put the egg case in a bush, hedge, limb, or anything more than two feet above the ground. The egg case may be inserted in the fork of a branch of hung with a piece of string or needle and thread run through the outside edge of the case. Hanging will help keep birds and rodents from eating the eggs in the case. If ants are in the area oiling the string will help keep them away.

Life Cycle
They hatch in the spring when the weather warms, the warmer the temperature, the sooner they hatch. Unlike most insects, the Mantids do not hatch as larvae, they emerge a miniature adults, about half an inch long. They will grow through the Spring and Summer until they reach a length of 5-6", shedding their skins several times. Although Mantids have wings, they do not use them until the Fall when the females wings develop and she begins flying around looking for males to mate with. After mating, she eats the head off the male, which helps to nourish her eggs. She then attaches the brown foam to a branch, lays her eggs inside and dies shortly afterward. The eggs are protected from the winter cold in the foam and the cycle begins again in the spring.

General Information
When the eggs hatch the egg case does not change in appearance except for what looks like a little sawdust hanging from the seam. Since the mantids do not move much and blend easily with their surroundings, it is easy to miss the hatching.

While most insects are constantly searching for food, Mantids are content to stay in one area and wait for their food to walk by and then grab it with their strong forelegs. This is why they are good to use early in the season, before there are pest problems, and use other insects after pests arrive.

EARTHWORMS

Earthworms, as they cultivate and feed, swallow great quantities of soil, digest it, extract its food value and expel the residue as worm castings - these worm castings are 5 times richer in the nutrients necessary for maximum plant growth and production, than the top 6" of top soil.

Just as important, earthworms are one of the most effective agents for loosening and aerating the soil. Their burrows make large passageways, lined with the earthworm castings, for roots to grow. Also, as the earthworms burrow, they create channels which increase the capacity for the soil to hold water. In soil where earthworms have been introduced, there is less run-off of water. Worm castings, increased aeration of the soil, and increased capacity to hold water by the soil will result in increased plant production and growth.

Increased earthworm population and richer, more productive soil are cause and effect. One cannot exist without the other. When the soil around trees, bushes, plants or in the garden or other growing areas is impregnated with earthworms or earthworm spawn, it should be also fertilized regularly with organic matter so the earthworms may thrive, multiply and perform their own important special functions in soil building and the promotion of plant growth.

 

 

 


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