The Cottage Smallholder

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A guaranteed investment. Attract overwintering ladybirds to tackle aphids in your garden next year.

ladybird checked into the deluxe ladybird hotelJust beside our front door is a small ladybird (ladybug) and lacewing condominium. It’s a simple design that seems to work well. Just a few short lengths of bamboo cane in an old terracotta pot but it does the trick – attracting these aphid eating insects to a warm sheltered spot to hibernate during the chilly winter months.

Last year I spotted a selection of rather smart ladybird hotels online. When I saw the price tags I decided to make my own. I had got as far as cutting the bamboo bedrooms and didn’t have time to construct a frame to hold them before the weather started to turn frosty. I realised that if they stood at an angle in a wide necked flower pot that the bedrooms would still provide deluxe accommodation for a discerning bug.

Ladybirds and lacewings are truly beneficial in a garden. They breed prolifically and a female can lay over 2,000 eggs during her life if she has a high protein aphid enriched diet. There is good information on ladybirds, from egg laying to love making on the BBC site. I had no idea that a single ladybird can eat 5,000 aphids during its short life. One thousand ladybirds could eat 5,000,000 on a good day. A ladybird’s life span is just a matter of months so it’s a good idea to try to encourage them to over winter on your plot by providing tempting places to shelter.

Aphids are not so much of a problem here since I started actively providing winter accomodation. And this is not a sophisticated development. Just a few snug B&Bs dotted about the garden.

Like pensioners drawn to winter in The Canaries, they will independantly find warm spots to hole up for the winter. I discover loads sheltering in window frames during the winter months when I’m decorating. As the paint filled brush would mean instant death, I collect them in a match box and bring them home. They’re scattered in a pot of sheep’s wool that is nestled deep in the yew hedge. South or Southwest facing places are best. Even stuffing a tin or a pot with dead leaves can provide shelter for over wintering insects.

Now is the time to act. Once the cold weather sets in they need to have found a warm spot for successful hibernation. Sometimes I see a few ladybirds hibernating on a plant that might catch a little winter sun but will not provide the protection that they need to survive the winter. I use the matchbox trick for these too. They might not like the whistle stop journey to the heart of the yew hedge but they may wake to greet another Spring.

If they’ve survived when the weather warms up, they’ll start laying the eggs that will provide the next generation of ladybirds in the garden. Aphids can decimate plants in a few feast filled days. Ladybirds are the organic answer to tackling this problem.

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  1. We had an explosion of ladybirds this summer here in the UK. As a result, they are now to be found everywhere. I even have one or two climbing across my laptop most every day.
    I guess the poor creatures are still looking for aphids in order to survive. Shame that they cannot digest misspellings!
    Yesterday we were feeding saplings and brambles etc. through our chomper (what’s it called? The mulching machine that featured in Fargo?). We removed those that we could see but I guess all of the population cannot survive throughout the winter. Seems like a hotel is a great idea to keep the numbers up for next year.

  2. Ditto to the slugs Dave! We had such a wet summer last year it was a nightmare to try to garden organically. I have found some slug control that’s supposed to be organic. Kills them with some organic mineral which then goes into the ground to improve soil. (Copper or something).

    My children bought me one of those wonderful fancy ladybird hotels for my birthday and printed off loads of info from the internet to go with it. It was a lovely idea and surprise. I had planned to do one of these and hadn’t got round to it but I will make some of these more economical alternatives this summer so I have themn dotted all over the garden.

  3. What a good idea. I was thinking about buying one of those fancy ladybird hotels too, but I think I will try to make some myself. I hope they set up home here and gorge themselves on aphids. If only they ate slugs too…

  4. I was searching for aphid-eating insects (or plants that draw them) because I can’t keep my roses and lupins from being devoured. This neighborhood is South Wales has ants, mealy bugs and slugs to the extreme as well. I found I can’t keep on top of spraying as I work full time and only have a few minutes each day. Shortage of money is also a factor so I think I’ll try dotting horse mint, fennel, coriander, dill, marigolds etc around and see if it attracts aphid-eaters.

  5. I had NO IDEA one could provide spots for the ladybugs to hibernate for the winter, what a wonderful idea! And I LOVE your picture of a little ladybug all snug as a bug, so cute! 🙂

  6. Ira Goodman

    There is an easy, inexpensive way of getting rid of aphids. The soapberry is a natural insecticide that comes from the Chinaberry tree. It is an environmentally green approach that has been used for thousands of years. And, it is very cost effective.

  7. This is a wonderful idea and one I had never heard of. I’ll give it a try next winter as we are well into Spring in Australia.

  8. magic cochin

    When I cut back hollow stemmed plants – lovage, fennel, angelica – I chop the stems into foot length sections and stuff them into corners under shrubs and against the garden wall held in place with an old brick and a tile on the top. These insect hotels also attract toads and newts.

    You’re absolutely right about the benefits of a diverse insect population.


  9. City Mouse/Country House

    Interesting and awfully clever! I find hundreds of expired ladybugs in our old (to be torn down) house each Spring. Seems like they want to winter inside, and don’t quite make it. I wondered if I might find a way to help them along. Our mountain temps may be too low, but this is great info. Thanks!

  10. If I made one of these now do you think I would get any ladybird lodgers? Aphids chomped away at my chillies leaves this year.

    I really must think about putting garlic in!

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