The Great Ladybug Harvest of 2014

ladybug flower
So, yesterday was the most beautiful fall day I’ve ever seen creep up in November. It was a sunny and warm 70 degrees here in Walla Walla, WA. I stepped outside onto my front porch and what did I see? Ladybugs swarming all around! It was the strangest phenomenon. I’ve never seen them in such numbers, and when I reported this to my friends, they said that they’d had the same experience! A ladybug invasion in mid-fall. Beautiful.
Now, I’m assuming you all know what a ladybug is, but for the most technical out of you all, it’s the Coccinellidae Beetle. (And my spell check just underlined that, even though it is a real word.) I believe that we have the asian lady beetle here in Walla Walla, but that doesn’t matter. They were swarming my house, some literally ramming it over and over with their beetle heads. We need to replace the seal to the side door of our place, and so they were all over the walls of the laundry room too!
Why am I telling everyone this? Well, I decided to harvest them for my tomatoes next year. Yes, you can harvest ladybugs. I found some great information, just by googling it. I’ve bought ladybugs at the garden center before, but never really thought about doing it myself, until now.
Here’s how it’s done:
Get a mesh bag, I used a wine bag that came with my wine shipment. A much smaller one will probably be more suitable.
mesh bag
Catch the ladybugs and put them in the bag and tie it off. (Kids would have fun with this!)
Put a little bit of straw or raffia in the bag. I don’t know the reason, but it’s there when you buy it from the store. (I need to get that taken care of!)
Put that bag in your refrigerator for the winter. (Yes, really. They go into hibernation mode in the cold and will just sleep until it’s warm again.)
20141106_104458
Let them out of the bag in the spring, after all danger of freezing.

Some tips and tricks that I learned:
It’s harder to catch them when they’re on the move. I caught quite a few and put them in the fridge this way, and it’s fun but not as easy as you’d think.
They don’t move at night, they just tuck their legs and land wherever. My laundry room floor had about 30 of them in this tucked upside-down posture all over the floor this morning. If I didn’t know better, they were dead. So I picked them all up, carefully, and with the warmth of my hand, they started moving. 🙂 I hurried up and stuck them in the bag with the rest, and doubled my count in no time!
Don’t squish! If you startle them, they put out a yellow ooze. That’s not pee, nor guts. That’s to ward off predators.
If you’re lucky, you’ve got a pregnant female full of eggs. Once you let her out in the spring, she’ll lay those babies on your plants, and the ladybugs stick pretty close to home and return to their birth place. You’ll have ladybugs for years to come and they’re a great pest control! (aphids)
Here’s what they look like when you buy them in the store:
ladybugs bag

Have a great harvest!

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