We headed to Star Nursery bright and early last Saturday morning to claim our free ladybugs. The place was packed at 0830 and we had to wait for a place to park. Free ladybugs for the garden (or free anything) really bring out the crowds, I guess.
Last month, we each received a free Early Girl tomato plant which are thriving. We never leave with just our free stuff though. Last time it was big ceramic pots for the backyard and a positively purple cineraria for the front entrance. This time we purchased a mint plant, some peppers and a huge petunia which will reside in one of the big pots we purchased last time around. Ah … but I digress, back to the ladybugs.
As we waited in a long checkout line, I asked the Hispanic man in front of me how to say ladybug in Spanish … might as well learn something while I was waiting. Mariquita is the word for ladybug … and as I also learned, it can also mean sissy or another derogatory term, but I’m sticking with ladybug. The Brits call them ladybirds. Even males of the species are called ‘lady’bugs … how sexist is that? There are ~5,000 different species of ladybugs in the world. They're carnivores, by the way … in a year, a single ladybug can devour more 5,000+ aphids. There's lots about ladybugs I never knew. I’m hoping they’ll not only take care of the flowers and veggie plants, but they’ll also attack the darn mealy bugs on my prickly pear.
We got the ladies home … all 450 of them … but we couldn’t release them immediately because of high temps (90F+) and brisk winds (up to 50 mph gusts). They had to remain in their little net bags overnight. I wet the cotton ball in the bags with water so the bugs could have a drink. Much to Mary’s chagrin (she’s not a bug lover), they camped out on the kitchen counter overnight waiting patiently for the big release in the cool and still of sunset on Sunday. They tend to stay put when nighttime comes ... we didn't want them flying away.
Finally, Sunday evening, we prepared for the big event. We waited till near dusk and sprayed water on the host plants to keep the critters occupied until they found something good to munch on. We carefully opened the net bags and coaxed the ladies out. Some went on the tomato plants, a few on the petunias, pansies and lavender and bunches on the mealy-bug infested prickly pear in the front yard. They seemed anxious for freedom, but took their time exiting the net bag. Most seemed content enough with their new environment though some flew away.
The neighbors, intrigued by our front yard activity, walked over to investigate. When they found it was a ladybug launch, they stuck around to check it out. Honestly, the activity level wasn’t high. There wasn’t all that much to see, yet it was somehow exhilarating watching the ladies ‘break out’ of their net bag prisons. We’ll see whether they stick around or not in the next few days. It wasn't quite as exciting as a butterfly release, but for a Sunday night at home in Las Vegas, it wasn't bad.