Ladybugs are a surprisingly beneficial insect to have in your garden. Getting them to make a home in your garden is slightly harder than it is for other insects, but it’s no less enjoyable.
So, let’s look at how to attract ladybugs to your garden. But first, we’ll cover why you want them.
Knowing how to attract ladybugs means nothing without knowing why you should. In short, ladybugs are predators that eat a wide range of harmful pests. These include:
- Spider mites
- Scale insects
Ladybugs have even been known to eat powdery mildew, which is a harmful fungus that can damage all kinds of plants.
So, while you need pollinators to ensure your plants produce crops, you need ladybugs to ensure the plants remain healthy. They’re a great alternative to chemical pesticides, especially if you have other animals that use your garden.
Ladybugs are a bit more difficult to attract than pollinators. That said, it’s still not difficult, but you can’t just plant some flowers and be done with it. Instead, it’s more about curating an environment that they enjoy and then letting nature do its thing.
So, here’s how to attract ladybugs to your garden.
Despite ladybugs not being direct pollinators, they still like flowers. They eat pollen and, indirectly, help pollinate flowers as a result. Luckily, there are plenty of plants that they enjoy, including:
They’re also a fan of dandelions, so if you’ve got any growing wild, make sure you keep them around. All of the plants above are great for balcony gardening because they either act as companion plants to crops or provide herbs you can use in cooking.
Ladybugs aren’t top of the food chain, so you’ll want to provide them with some protection from predators. There are a few ways you can go about this.
The first is to plant low plants for ground cover. Things like oregano and chamomile work well, but any short and bushy plant will be suitable. The bottom line is that your chosen plant shouldn’t reach too high off the soil.
Another option is to add a ladybug house. These are wooden boxes designed for insects to nest in. Most cater to different types of insects, including bees and other pollinators. Put a couple of raisins inside to draw the ladybugs in.
Finally, a pile of dead leaves or mulch will do the job, although you probably won’t want a random pile of mulch sitting on your balcony!
Ladybugs are living creatures, so, unsurprisingly, providing water will help draw them in. A damp paper towel will work fine, as will a dish of water. If you plan to use a dish, it should be shallow (such as a saucer) and filled with pebbles. This reduces the chance of insects drowning in it.
It might seem counterproductive, but a good option for how to attract ladybugs to your garden is to attract their prey. Of course, you won’t want aphids destroying your precious crops, which is why you use trap plants.
Nasturtiums are the best option because they’re fast growing and loved by pests. Plant some in a railing planter or window box away from your actual crops and you’ll be good to go.
This should be obvious but, if you want ladybugs, don’t use chemical pesticides. Not only will these kill the ladybugs’ prey but they’ll also kill the ladybugs themselves. On a similar note, avoid using weedkillers or any other chemical sprays just to be safe.
Finally, if you’re not having much luck attracting ladybugs to your garden, just add them yourself. However, make sure you wait a week or so after setting up your ladybug attractors before you throw in the towel.
You should be able to buy a box of ladybugs at your local garden center. You can also buy them online. There shouldn’t be any issues adding your own ladybugs to your garden. Theoretically, if they’re being sold in your area then they’ll be a local, non-invasive species.
Now you know how to attract ladybugs to your garden. Ideally, have these things ready at the beginning of spring and then just be patient. With the right conditions and a bit of luck, your balcony garden will be full of ladybugs.