By Karen Retra
Did you know there are about 500 species of ladybird beetles in Australia?
Of these, I regularly see five species in my garden.
Ladybird beetles (Coccinellidae family) are terrific pest controllers. For many species, both the larvae and adults feed on small, soft-bodied and sap-sucking insects like aphids, scales and mites. Maybe you’ve seen the yellow, fungus-eating ladybirds, Illeis galbula, that move in when mildew appears on plant leaves and help by hoovering it up.
Yet some gardeners are quick to warn that there are ‘dangerous’ ladybird beetles, too. They are usually referring to the several species of leaf-eating ladybirds found in Australia. You might know them as the 28-spotted or potato ladybird.
These species eat leaves of plants, particularly zucchini, cucumber, pumpkins, beans and potatoes. In large numbers they can kill seedlings and impact plants’ growth or yields.
But in home gardens we needn’t be terrified, nor rush to exterminate ladybird beetles. The presence of a couple of these ladybirds, or a little munching, won’t severely impact the plant nor your harvest.
If you are concerned, try these four tips for assessing and responding.
There’s a lot to love about ladybird beetles. Unless you’re a small, sap-sucking insect, I guess.