Should You Buy Lady Bugs for Your Container Garden?

Posted on Jul 18 2012 - 1:19am by Mike Lieberman

Aphids are wiping out your container garden…

…you have tried a DIY spray to no avail.

You’ve been told that lady bugs eat aphids and are thinking about buying some for your small container garden.

This is the problem that Catherine is having and sent me this question:

I’ve got several containers on my deck (no self watering though, sadly) and my tomato plants are getting hit pretty hard by red aphids and little white bugs. I tried a mixture of onion and garlic juice sprayed directly on them but to no avail. Should I try to get some ladybugs, and if so, how do I just get a few?

Don’t buy lady bugs!

When people say that they have problems with aphids, the “experts” almost immediately chime in like robots and suggest getting lady bugs.

For someone like you Catherine that would be a total waste, you’d release them and they’d fly away like white doves.

Here’s what I’d recommend since you already attempted you homemade spray:

  1. Buy an organic pesticide spray such as EndAll™ from Safer Brand. It’s OMRI listed and safe to use.
  2. When planning for next season, plant herbs and veggies that will naturally attract the ladybugs such as dill and cilantro.
  3. Insect infestations are also usually a sign of a weak plant. You might want to feed the soil more fertilizer to build up it’s strength.
  4. Save your money on the lady bugs, Catherine, and try one of these other solutions.

    I know that aphids are a huge pain in the ass. They’ve wiped out a few of my containers in the past.

    Your turn

    In the comments below, let me know what insects problems you are currently having in your garden and what ridiculous advice have you received from experts to remedy the situation.

    Image courtesy of علي الحسين on Flickr.

11 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Becky July 18, 2012 at 10:06 am -

    Totally agree, I did buy lady bugs, and they did all fly away!

  2. Astafford July 18, 2012 at 10:25 am -

    Well, I beg to differ with you.  Our ladybugs worked great!  Your plug for a commercial product sound just like that. 

  3. luckyducky19 July 18, 2012 at 10:42 am -

    Astafford – I’d be willing to classify ladybugs as a commercial product too, since someone out there is breeding, raising, and selling them to consumers. Just a thought.

    I do think they’d be a waste in certain gardens (like mine, which is very small and on an exposed breezy balcony.) Maybe if your urban garden was denser, close to the ground, and protected, but I just imagine they’d all fly away once released in mine.

  4. summer July 18, 2012 at 10:49 am -

    I buy ladybugs every year for my container garden on my balcony and if you stick them in the fridge for an hour before releasing them and then release them during the early morning after you have just watered or misted the plants, I’ve found they stick around much longer than just releasing them after bringing them home. They eat there fill of aphids and then yes, they do fly away. But, usually they stick around for a day or two and clean house first. What do you think about releasing praying mantis to eat other insects? 

  5. Mike Lieberman July 18, 2012 at 11:26 am -

    If you want to invest in ladybugs for one container, then by all means do so. In my post, 3 solutions were offered. Those that DIY and those that just want to buy.

  6. Dani Massey July 18, 2012 at 11:31 am -

    Thank you for posting alternatives! I had considered ladybugs and then thought “Nah, the birds would eat them all and get a gourmet meal on my dime.” I didn’t even think about them flying away.  I’m glad I saw this article!

  7. Farmerfanny July 22, 2012 at 9:59 am -

    When you buy a bag of lady bugs I read that they are usually scooped up from the woods and they do fly away I’ve bought some myself. What I read said that you have to buy them as babies or eggs then they will stay as long as there is food for them to eat. I’ve never seen red aphid are you sure they weren’t red spider mites? Praying mantis is an other good bug to encourage to have around.

  8. hyderabad Flowers August 16, 2012 at 12:14 am -

    have so beautifully captured, in both words and pictures, all the best reasons
    for being outside and for supporting the native plants that are the basis for
    the bounty.

  9. Yvonne Jensen May 8, 2013 at 9:37 pm -

    I don’t necessarily agree either but the advice is helpful. Organic urban gardening is a very specific sub-culture that requires A LOT of research to find the right products/solutions. Even then it may not be accurate because different soils & climates have, again, very specific needs. On more than one occasion I have spent several hours going through the OMRI database trying to find something that I can buy locally and that fits my needs. Sometimes it’s great just to get an answer without thinking.

  10. Shelita Williams January 29, 2014 at 4:46 am -

    I’m soooo sad right now, this was my first time planting, I started in october, using a earthbox so I had to bring my plants in the house, and then I saw all of these aphids (at the time I didn’t know what they were) I tried the sticky things, the soap spray and then I made my own, using garlic, oil, soap, cayenne pepper, and basil. Which actually seemed to work better than the other stuff, but all of my plants are dead except the swiss chard and the kale, cauliflower and broccoli are hanging on for dear life! I even have them in a greenhouse, in my bedroom! I said all of that to say, what kind of fertilizer is best to strengthen them? Thank you!

  11. Joelle June 21, 2014 at 9:00 am -

    I have a catnip plant growing right into one of my rose bushes and chives, I have dill on another side of my yard maybe 8 feet away, I also have a huge patch of mint in with my rose bushes. I even have basil and oregano in there. I got aphids this year on my roses. I hadn’t had them for a couple of years. Well…last night I was going trim back the catnip and found a HUGE infestation IN the catnip. What the heck?? This was suppose to help. I immediately thought of lady bugs, but if I don’t try them, what? Cut back the whole thing and use soapy water? >=/

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