Lil' Garden Warriors

“perhaps you notice a congregation of ladybugs on a rose stalk.
Don’t invoke the old nursery saying and ask them to fly away home.
Their house is not on fire. Your roses are, with aphids,
which the ladybugs are feeding on – and you can
bless yourself that they have come to your rescue.

– Eleanor Perenyi

IPM (Integrated Pest Management)

When Farmer D gives his Urban Homesteading Presentations ,one of the topics he discuss is ‘Attracting Beneficial Insects.‘ [btw Farmer D has a new website!]

He likes to point out that as gardeners/farmers, we need to learn to take a step back and “let nature be.”

Case in point:

Always, there is a period of time when you are tempted to get rid of every aphid in sight. Aphids are not a plant’s friend—in fact, they can really damage a plant in a matter of days! Ladybugs are the cavalry that ride to the rescue. But, a gardener must be willing to sacrifice some plants and let the aphids alone so that the ladybugs are supplied with rations? Destroy the aphids and the ladybugs will desert.

As you grow along with your garden, you begin to gain a different perspective. Although it looks unkempt and even downright ugly, we let some aphid-riddled plants remain in the garden. Why? Although it may look like the black plague, those plants are harboring a powerful secret—a stealth weapon that will turn on the aphids.

Looks unsightly but....

Look what lies beneath! Where there are bad bugs there's good ones too!

Ladybug hatchery. More baby lady bug larvae

Onward ladybugs! Munching away at the aphids

The lady bug army has arrived!

Beneficial Buffer Zone

Amidst the tens of thousands of oozing little bugs is the perfect nursery for ladybugs to lay their eggs. When the larvae emerge by the hundreds, they feast on the aphids, developing into adult beetles that continue to consume a diet of aphids.

Last week, Justin was about to go in and “tidy up” along one of the fence line because the aphids had gone wild and were taking over the pumpkins (their leaves were looking rather pathetic) Just as he was about cut down the old withering pumpkin leaves he spotted hundred of so baby ladybugs!

We will just let the sap-sucked pumpkin leaves be this season’s ladybug habitat sanctuary or “beneficial buffer zone” until the lil’ ladybugs fly away… not too far, hopefully!  I think they rather like it here and we like having them here on the homestead.

Moral of the story:

Before you go all Rambo on aphids, take a step backwards and let nature be.

:: Resources ::

Integrated Pest Management

How to Attract Beneficials to the Garden

Conservation Buffers

List of Plants That Attract Beneficials and Bees


  1. Merryn-Lee says:

    There is an abundance of of Lady bugs this year up my way (middle of no-where in Canada)….beautiful big fat ones looking after my gardens… pretty and useful!
    Also noticed we have honey bees this year, havent seen any in 2 years, but they are back….Im smiling…..
    Happy gardening everyone 🙂

    • Anais says:

      @Merryn-Lee: happy garden, happy people!

  2. Dog Island Farm says:

    You are lucky to not have the scourge of ants “farming” and protecting the aphids. That’s when they really become a problem because the ladybugs and their larvae can’t get close enough to eat them. This year we’ve been ok with aphids and I haven’t been spraying for pests. I did see my first lacewing EVER yesterday in our beans and was very excited!

    • Anais says:

      @Dog Island Farm: Have you tried any natural methods to curb the ant population? Good news about the lacewing – congrats!

  3. jody says:

    we are having a problem with little red beetles this year. i cant seem to get rid of them. they have eatten all of my lilies and are moving to my hydrangeas. any suggestions on how to get this critters?

    • Anais says:

      @jody: do you know what kind of beetles they are? Any suggestions folks?

      • jody says:

        so apparently this beetle is a problem for CT :
        im not sure what to do about them. they stripped my lilys bald, and ate any new growth. they either pooped or laid eggs ( slimy black stuff) all over the plants as they ate them.. 🙁

        • Anais says:

          @jody: Wow, what a close resemblance to lady bugs. Anyone have any ideas on controlling them?

  4. Jeni says:

    We have had a huge ant problem this year:( so bad that we had to re-plant our cucumbers. We have used some natural methods to try to atleast keep them at bay, so hopefully we will be ok for now. We have seen some aphids but nothing to extreme yet.
    BTW I love that peanut butter picture of Blackberry and Fairlight!!!

    • Anais says:

      @Jeni: Good luck with your ant problem. They can be a pest more than the aphids! Oh, you haven’t seen nothing yet – going to post a whole slew of others peanut butter and goat photos. Stay tuned!

  5. JeannaMO says:

    Excellent post! My comments are two-fold – 1) Love the aphids post! I always read about them but in my agricultural ignorance I just did not know what they looked like. Now I know! My mom keeps talking about these little black bugs that she wants to kill. I also saw the ladybugs at her garden but here in Missouri we have this little asian beetle tha looks like an orange ladybug. My mom keeps thinking that what we are seeing are the beetles and not ladybugs,but after reading your post – I do believe they are ladybugs – and THAT IS A GOOD THING!

    2) I love the new site that Farmer D has created; especially the writings. I could use a book of his little paragaphs beside my bed (created into a garden journal maybe where I could write as well??). Sometimes I am so tired from a long day at work and not enough time at home!. When I go out to the garden and there are not enough hours in the day I get so discouraged! Farmer D’s writings are a little pick-me-up and I find I am not so discouraged after all! Tell him THANK YOU! And KEEP WRITING! Sound wisdom in his thoughts! All I have left to say is WOW! How could anyone not be inspired after reading those?

    • Anais says:

      @JeannaMO: Thank you for your positive comments, so sweet. I’ll pass them along to Farmer D (he’s too busy to be on computers!) Glad you enjoyed the post and learn something from it. Always makes our day to hear from folks like yourself who are doing what they can, where they are. Press on!

  6. Suseon says:

    When I saw the aphids attacking our Brussels Sprouts my first thought was to find something to get rid of them. But, they weren’t on all of the plants so I reminded myself that a weak plant has pests. I let it go and the aphids did plenty of damage but the last time I looked – no aphids. I’m not sure if it was ladybugs or something else but they are gone and the plants are bouncing back. I’m so glad I didn’t try to rescue those weak plants. Just like children with a cold, sometimes its good to let their immune system be tested. And now I know that we are potentially harboring some beneficial insects as well. How much we can learn from nature by just watching and not interfering!

    • Anais says:

      @Suseon: Good point, thanks for sharing.

  7. Jero says:

    Companion planting marigolds with aphid prone plants like tomatoes and peppers can help to prevent them.

  8. Chris says:

    Thank you for this article! It gives me a whole new perspective about pest management. When folks do a fall clean-up and haul away their leaves, etc. they are creating “desert beds” where there is no place for those beneficials to overwinter. This past winter I did no traditional fall clean-up here in NE. I did chop up the leaves from my oak trees and mulched as many of my beds as I could. I also mulched with fresh seaweed to give all my beds a place for beneficial insects to overwinter. I definitely noticed a decrease in bad bugs so far this year, except for that nasty cabbage moth on my brassicas. Experimenting with companion planting and laying down cuttings of sage and mint amongst the plants (some success).

    • Anais says:

      @Chris: You are so right. Folks don’t understand that concept. They like clean gardens but sometimes removing the debris we remove habitats and hiding places for good bugs. Way to go, a success story. Thanks for sharing.

  9. James says:

    On a similar note, I have cabbage worms. Lots of little green caterpillars that love Brassicas. Anyway, I just left them be this year. I have lots of kale, cabbage, collards and such. Caterpillars everywhere… for a while. Then suddenly, the plants grew new leaves that didn’t have holes in them. What was going on?
    Turns out some sort of parasitic wasp is laying eggs on the caterpillars. I found sever caterpillars with little fuzzy cocoons on them and not eating my plants.
    Lesson is, if you have an insecticide free garden, you will attract a pest, but also that pest will attract something that wants to eat it. And the boom-bust cycle goes until balance is reached. Some few plants are lost, but I have such abundance that it hardly is noticeable.

    • Chris says:

      Thanks James, Jules and everyone! We just returned from a local organic garden club tour today from one our our farmer club members. He is working 3 acres, has a CSA, new dad and into Brix … nutrient density. He is exactly of the same mindset. We’ve had a hot summer here in NE with less rain than normal. He, basically, said the same thing as you both so I will “let it be” and start some new seedlings to transplant in a cooler micro-climate in our yard. Also, interesting is that he is a big believer in OG foliar sprays Ideally on a weekly basis, but right now for him as time permits being a one-plus man show with his first two month old adorable baby girl and wife. Thanks again for the input!

      • Anais says:

        @Chris: Thanks for the comment, glad to hear about other folks who are the same page. Justin foliar sprays on a weekly basis, seems to work! Have a great summer.

  10. Thy Hand says:

    Great reminder for all of us- thank you!!

    • Anais says:

      @Thy Hand: You’re welcome. Happy summer!

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