CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When I think of an 80-acre New York City apartment complex, I don't typically think of the ladybug as the dominant insect-in-residence. But the trend to use natural insecticides led one landlord to fight one bug with another.
The place was overrun with aphids -- estimates say there were 4.6 billion of them (but who counted?) -- so they bought 720,000 lady beetles (Hippodamia convergens) that used their sense of smell to hunt and devour the tiny pests.
The ladybugs came from Planet Natural in Bozeman, Mont., and they feed on 40 to 50 aphids per day, according to owner Eric Vinje. His company collects the beneficial critters in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, and he says sales are up over the past few years. Barley suppliers for Anheuser-Busch bought 7 million!
You can buy 2,000 ladybugs for $23.50. One half-pint (about 4,500) covers 3,000 square feet (a 50- by 60-foot plot). Ladybugs arrive in a cloth bag ready for release.
If it is not convenient to make an immediate release, refrigerate the closed bag -- but do not refrigerate for more than a day or so; the longer they are refrigerated the higher the mortality will be.
To release the ladybugs, water your garden and shake them out close to the pest populations. With sufficient food available, the ladybugs will likely stay in the area.
The company (www.planetnatural.com) is taking orders to be shipped in the spring.
I need to start wearing gardening gloves. Every spring, I tear up my hands doing the garden cleanup, and then I think about getting some good gloves. Hubby has bought several different types -- leather, cloth, suede -- but I can't seem to find a pair I want to wear.
Since the biggest problem I have with garden gloves is that they get dirt on the inside, making them ineffective for keeping my hands clean, I'm going to try my friend Julie's solution. She buys them at Big Lots for less than a buck a pair and gets several pairs at a time, then just pitches them (without guilt) when they get nasty.
When researching gloves, I came across a pair by a company called Palm Flex. This testimonial for the gloves made me laugh, since the biggest foe my gloves must face is a multiflora rose:
"I bought a pair of the HexArmor Hercules gloves for snake handling down in the jungles of Panama. They stood up to multiple strikes from three different kinds of snakes, including the poisonous fer-de-lance. The only thing I noticed after my trip was that a couple of the small rubber dots covering the palm and thumb area came off from normal use. These dots add a resistant-friction angle to prevent a direct strike." -- Charles Jennings
Mr. Jennings, your life is truly more interesting than mine.