By Countryside New Farmer Academy interns Dylan and Trish
Ladybugs, our new favorite beneficial insect, have found themselves a home at Old Trail Farm at a time when they are needed most.
The season is in full swing—farms and gardens throughout Cuyahoga Valley National Park are bursting forth with new life. But in all the commotion of a record season at Old Trail Farm a few unexpected guests, aphids, have discovered a tasty treat in the leaves of a crop of hot peppers firmly rooted in greenhouse 2. The New Farmer Academy interns promptly noticed these little invaders wrecking some serious havoc on the young pepper transplants, and have been fairly successful keeping them under control since then. Aphids, however, are relentless – so as the heat rises giving access to extra energy, and colonies of ‘farmer’ ants develop a symbiotic relationship, the aphids bounce back stronger leading to a population explosion in the past week.
As we scramble to find a solution that is both effective against the aphids and conducive to natural processes, something incredible has taken place virtually overnight – cue the ladybugs. These lean, mean, polka-dotted aphid killing machines have awakened to the small bounty waiting amidst the carnage of our pepper plants; and they are instinctively munching away at the aphid attackers. Each adult ladybug (Hippodamia Convergens) consumes 50-60 aphids a day, estimated up to 5,000 in a lifetime, which can span up to a year. Needless to say, short work of our aphid problem.
Now in our circumstance, mother nature caught sight of an opportunity and provided a solution for us. Other farmers and market gardeners may not be so fortunate. Luckily, with the advent of the internet and it’s subsequent marriage with human ingenuity – a growing body is learning about and incorporating ladybugs, and other beneficial insects into their sustainable crop-production operations. There are around 4,700 known species of aphids, and a comparable number of beneficial insect solutions. So next time you notice a problem and reach for your organic insecticide, take a pause and look for some ladybugs.