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Eco-Friendly Pest Management with Bugs: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

“The Ladybug wears no disguises / She is just what she advertises. / A speckled spectacle of spring, / A fashion statement on the wing. / A miniature orange kite. / A tiny dot-to-dot delight.” ― J. Patrick Lewis

Pretty much everyone likes ladybugs. It’s leftover from childhood. Some mothers tell their children it’s a sign of good luck if a ladybug lands on you. And almost every child in California learns killing a ladybug is bad luck. Catching them, cupping them and letting them go – or putting them on a favorite plant – is quite OK.

There’s a reason for that: ladybugs are near the top of the list of “Good Bugs.”

Most gardeners know: when it comes to insects, there’s definitely “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Knowing which bug fits which category and using the good against the bad is the basis of Integrated Pest Management.

IPM focuses on using natural methods like good-guy warrior bugs to protect your plants instead of insecticides, pesticides and chemicals. IPM is a big thing these days, from backyard gardening to large-scale agriculture and landscape management. “I tell everyone: don’t reach for pesticides first!” explained UC Master Gardener Bob Weis.

Weis will be doing a free presentation on eco-friendly pest management at the next Windsor Garden Club meeting Tuesday, March 21, in the Community Room at the Windsor Senior Center, 9231 Foxwood Dr. Doors open a little before 6:30 p.m. for refreshments and garden announcements; the presentation begins at 6:45.

Weis will be outlining Sonoma County’s best bugs and the bad guys, with photos of both. “We’ll talk about what we’re most likely to see in the garden here,” he said.

That includes real ladybugs, and their green impostors. Both are small beetles. Ladybugs are vivid shades of red, and sometimes orange, and most have two or more black spots. Ladybugs love eating those seed-sized, horrid, neon-lime colored aphids that descend about this time every spring and suck the life out of your new rose growth. Gardener moms: tell your kids it is very good luck to help red ladybugs find your roses.

You can also buy ladybugs in ventilated bags at nurseries, and set them out on your roses directly. They may be a bit sluggish at first; look for bags with a lot of movement among the ladybugs and buy them early in the sales season. Open the bags and set the bugs on your roses.

Out in the garden, keep watch for green look-alike not-ladybugs. They’re impostors! They’re actually cucumber beetles. The adults damage the leaves of cucumbers and some beans, and the larvae burrow into the ground and damage young plant roots.

Gardener moms: tell your kids it’s OK to squash the green fake-ladybugs. In fact, it’s very good luck for your plants.

Learn more anytime at on the Sonoma County Master Gardeners website. Check out their Integrated Pest Management page here.

Photo courtesy

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