4 Ways To Attract Ladybugs To Your Garden

Close up of ladybug on white flower in nature

Most gardeners do everything in their power to keep beetles out of their garden, but ladybugs are a different type of beetle. And since just one ladybug can eat up to 5,000 destructive pests during their lifetime, they’re one beetle you want to call for dinner!

You can attract ladybirds to your garden by:

  • Attracting the insects that ladybugs like to eat
  • Adding plants and flowers that attract ladybugs to your garden
  • Giving ladybugs a source of water
  • Ensuring the ladybugs have a safe place to sleep
  • Eliminating pesticides

Continue reading to learn more about these charming beetles, and how you can invite them to spend the summer in your garden!

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Add Plants and Flowers That Ladybugs Like

red ladybug on primrose flower, ladybird creeps on stem of plant in spring in garden in summer

Providing flowers and plants that ladybugs like will help attract them to your garden and ensure they stick around.

In addition to aphids and other insects, ladybugs sometimes eat nectar, pollen, and fungus. Some species will also snack on fruits, leaves, and seeds.

Although ladybugs are often brightly colored, most species are color blind. Their compound eye structure only allows them to see in shades of black and white. Because of this, ladybugs are typically drawn to lighter colors such as white, pink, yellow, and orange.

This brings us to yet another way in which ladybugs help gardeners. As they move from flower to flower to eat nectar and pollen, ladybugs indirectly aid in pollination, which is essential for plants to reproduce.

So not only will ladybugs enjoy the nectar of the plants, they could help ensure your annual plants grow again next year!

What You Can Do

Because ladybugs supplement their diet with nectar and pollen, you can attract the tiny beetles by planting lightly colored flowers.

Ladybugs are attracted to a variety of flowers, including:

  • Marigold
  • Angelica
  • Calendula
  • Geraniums
  • Cornflower
  • Sunflowers
  • Roses
  • Alyssum
  • Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Butterfly weed
  • Orchids
  • Milkweed
  • Feverfew
  • Dandelions
  • Cosmos
  • Tansy
  • Gardenias
  • Azalea
  • Yarrow
  • Carnations

In addition to flowers, ladybugs are attracted to a variety of herbs. Some of their favorites include:

  • Dill
  • Mustard
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Garlic
  • Chives

Because they primarily feast on other bugs, you’ll want to ensure you don’t plant anything that naturally repels the insects that ladybugs eat. For example, basil, rosemary, and catnip have all been said to be natural repellents of aphids.

Additionally, if you want ladybugs to visit your lawn, avoid planting flowers that repel the colorful beetles. To learn more about the plants that naturally repel ladybugs, check out these 9 scents that ladybugs hate.

You’ll want to arrange your garden to include aphid-attracting plants and ladybug-attracting flowers. Just make sure to keep the decoy plants (attracting aphids) away from the plants you don’t want to become infested.

Garden boxes, like these SUNVIVI Outdoor Raised Self-Watering Planters, can be a great way to arrange your garden into sections or areas that hold different plants.

Give Ladybugs Something to Drink

Ladybug drinking water off of a blade of grass

According to the Journal of Plant Breeding and Crop Science, insects don’t always drink water to get the hydration their bodies require. Instead, they’ll often get their water intake through the insects they eat.

Ladybugs get most of their hydration from insects and nectar but will drink water when needed. This is especially true when they’re in captivity.

Interestingly enough, ladybugs can swim. And because they often feed on protein-rich aphids, they have the energy to paddle for quite a while. 

Although there aren’t any specific studies to say how long they can swim, people have observed ladybugs swimming for up to an hour. And some owners have witnessed their pets purposely walking underwater.

Like most insects, ladybugs don’t breathe through their mouths. Instead, they take in oxygen through small air ducts located on the sides of their bodies.

They can close these air ducts when they’re in the water to keep moisture from getting in. However, this also means they cannot take in oxygen, so they’re essentially holding their breath while in the water.

Ladybugs can and will drown if they fall into standing water and don’t have any way to reach dry land. Because they can drown, it’s important to give ladybugs a place where they can access water without the risk of falling in.

What To Do

Giving ladybugs a source of water is not vital. However, it can help attract the beetles to your yard and give them another reason to stick around.

Large pools of water are not recommended because ladybugs can drown in standing water. Additionally, standing water can breed bacteria and give mosquitoes a place to lay their eggs.

Instead, offer water to ladybugs in one of the following ways:

  • Put Wet Paper Towels or Sponges In Your Garden. By placing damp sponges, such as these All Natural Sea Sponges, in your garden, you give ladybugs a place to drink without the risk of drowning. Make sure to put the sponges in a shaded area to prevent them from drying quickly.

 If you notice the sponge becoming a water source for unwanted pests, move it to a different area of your lawn.

  • Place Shallow Dishes of Water Around Your Yard. Shallow water dishes or rocks with natural depressions can also be used to provide water. The water should barely cover the dish’s surface without creating a pool deeper than ¼ of an inch. 

If you’re looking for a shallow dish that will blend naturally into your garden, check out these Reptile Food Bowls from CALPALMY.

  • Use Watering Gel. Reptile owners commonly use watering gel to provide water to feeder insects because it eliminates the risk of drowning. And it tends to stay moist longer than paper towels or sponges. 
  • Make A Ladybug Pond. Make your little ladybug pond. Line the bottom of a shallow pan with medium-sized stones. Arrange the rocks to cover the bottom of the dish, and pour a small amount of water into the pan.

Ladybugs can crawl down the rocks to access the water but will not fall into the water and drown.

  • Mist Plants Lightly. If you want to offer a more natural water source, you can lightly mist the plants that ladybugs are feeding on with water. It’s best to do this in the early morning when dew would naturally be present and avoid misting plants in the afternoon when the sun is hottest.

Give Ladybugs a Place to Sleep

Red ladybug on a green leaf in the garden

If you want ladybugs to call your garden home, you’ll need to provide them with a safe place to rest.

According to the Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies, ladybugs have several defense mechanisms. When alarmed, they can play dead and emit foul-smelling reflex blood from their legs. And their bright colors serve as a reminder to predators that they taste bad and shouldn’t be eaten.

Despite their defense mechanisms, ladybugs still have some predators, including:

  • Birds
  • Frogs
  • Dragonflies
  • Spiders
  • Assassin bugs
  • Wasps
  • Ants
  • Anoles
  • Other ladybugs

So, even though ladybugs are not at the bottom of the food chain, they’re not at the top either, and they need a safe place to rest from other predators and inclement weather.

What You Can Do

Ladybugs don’t sleep like you or I do—they don’t have eyelids! But they do enter a resting state. 

Sometimes, especially during the warmer months, ladybugs can be spotted resting on flowers and other surfaces in the garden. But most of the time, they’ll find a more protected spot to pull in their legs and sleep.

You can help ladybugs find resting spots by planting flowers and bushes that provide low coverage. Additionally, they may seek protection under the bark of logs, inside cracks, and under debris such as mulch, pinecones, and hay.

Insect houses are also a great addition to any garden. They provide a place for ladybugs to sleep during the night, and they can be an excellent spot for ladybugs to overwinter in your garden. 

These tiny wooden homes are similar to birdhouses, except they contain several types of structures for ladybugs to crawl around in. If you’re interested in installing ladybug houses in your yard, check out this Wooden Insect Hotel!

Some species, especially those found in cooler climates, will emit a pheromone to let other ladybugs know when they’ve found a good spot to hide.

By providing adequate shelter, you may attract ladybugs to your garden over the winter who become permanent guests in the spring.

Attract the Pests That Ladybugs like to Eat

One of the best ways to attract any insect (whether you want to or not) is to offer a plentiful supply of their favorite foods. But since the pests that ladybugs like to eat aren’t bugs you want to invite into your garden, this can be tricky.

Out of the 5,000 known species of Ladybugs that exist, many of them eat a variety of insects! Although it depends on the species, some of a ladybugs favorite snacks include:

  • Aphids
  • Mites
  • Fruit flies
  • Whiteflies
  • Scale bugs
  • Mealybugs
  • Weevils
  • Chinch bugs
  • Gnats
  • Insect eggs
  • Several types of beetle larvae (including other ladybug larvae)

Ladybugs help control the population of insects that otherwise wreak havoc on a garden—and they can eat a lot! In fact, according to the International Journal of Zoology Studies, just one ladybug can eat up to 1,000 aphids during its lifetime!

Even more so, one ladybug can eat up to 75 aphids daily!

In addition to eating bugs, some ladybug species eat fungus or mildew. The fungus-eating ladybugs are often spotted munching on the powdery mildew that grows on plants, such as pumpkin and zucchini leaves. 

Finally, some species are destructive pests themselves. For example, because they prefer to eat plants in the legume family, the Mexican bean beetle has become a nuisance for farmers who grow soybeans, snap beans, and lima beans.

Luckily, most ladybugs are pest eaters and can be incredibly beneficial to your garden. But how can you attract ladybugs without filling your garden with destructive pests?

What You Can Do

Most gardeners want to attract ladybugs because they already have an abundance of destructive pests.

In this case, you don’t have to draw the insects because they’re already there. Instead, you’ll want to focus more on the other ways to attract and keep ladybugs in your garden, which are listed below. 

Otherwise, if you want to attract ladybugs to your yard because you adore the colorful beetles but don’t have a pest problem, then you can try adding plants that will attract insects that ladybugs like to eat.

According to work published in Plant Biology, many plants produce volatiles in response to aphid infestation, and those volatiles work to attract insects that eat aphids such as wasps and ladybugs. In other words, if a plant is infested with aphids it will release a sort of chemical distress call that attracts ladybugs to the plant to eat the destructive pests.

Most species of ladybugs eat aphids. Although aphids will eat almost any plant available, some trees, plants, and flowers attract them more than others. Farmers often use these plants as trap plants to lure aphids away from their crops.

Aphids are especially attracted to:

  • Milkweed
  • Roses
  • Vegetable plants
  • Sunflowers
  • Coleus
  • Nasturtiums
  • Nicotiana
  • Marigolds
  • Mustard

Planting these in your garden can attract aphids that will attract ladybugs. However, if you add these plants to your yard, keep them away from your central garden as aphids can and will travel to other plants.

Unfortunately, any aphids that you bring to your garden have the potential to be detrimental, so be really cautious here. In the long run, NEVER introduce aphids directly to your garden.

As well, if you’d like to learn more – check out our piece on the flowers that aphids love for more options!

What Else Can I Do to Attract Ladybugs?

Ladybugs are primarily attracted to food and some type of protection.

As long as those two things are present, ladybugs will find a way into your garden. However, once they visit you, there are some things you can do to ensure they stick around.

Eliminate Pesticides

Pesticides are created to eliminate bugs; they cannot tell the difference between bugs you want in your garden and those you don’t.

Insecticides will get rid of the pests that ladybugs need to eat to survive, and they can incidentally rid you of ladybugs as well. 

Please don’t purposely attract ladybugs to your yard if you plan to use insecticides.

Hang Ladybug Feeders In Your Garden

Some gardeners attract ladybugs by hanging small ladybird feeders in their gardens. You can use several designs, but the feeders are typically filled with raisins or honey. 

Although this might work to attract ladybugs initially, it could also attract unwanted pests such as ants and wasps.

Make sure you keep an eye on the feeders and remove them if they start attracting unwanted attention.

Keep An Eye On What Ladybugs Are Naturally Attracted To

Are you losing your ladybugs to your neighbor’s garden? Check out where they’re going. Or, if you spot them in the wild, take note of what type of plant they’re on. 

If ladybugs aren’t sticking around, it could be that you simply don’t have the right plants.

How Can I Keep Ladybugs out of My House?

Ladybug getting ready to fly off of a fingertip

Ladybugs make amazing neighbors, but they’re not the best roommates. Luckily, there are ways to ensure they stay in your garden and out of your house.

Although they don’t nest, species that live in cooler climates will congregate to stay warm in the winter. Some hibernation areas play host to hundreds of thousands of these tiny beetles at once.

Luckily, your home probably won’t draw thousands of ladybugs. However, some local species can secrete pheromones that let other ladybugs know a nice warm spot is nearby. And this could draw hundreds of tiny beetles to your home.

Avoid sharing your home with ladybugs by checking window screens for rips, sealing gaps around doors and windows, and giving ladybugs an alternate place to spend the winter.

In the process of attracting ladybugs to your yard, some may find their way inside. Addition to the tips listed above, you can read up on 3 things you can do if you find ladybugs inside!

Should I Buy Ladybugs To Put In My Garden?

You might have seen ladybugs for sale in garden stores or online, but should you buy ladybugs?

Many people protest the sale of ladybugs, primarily due to how they are harvested. Instead of breeding them in captivity, many sellers choose to capture the critters while they’re hibernating.

This can reduce the population of ladybugs in other areas and introduce invasive species to your location.

Others have recommended against buying ladybugs simply because there’s no way of knowing if they’ll stay in your garden.

Most of the ladybugs sold are harvested while hibernating in the mountain and have an innate desire to travel back down the mountain once they emerge in the spring.

When you release them in your yard, they still have this desire and will likely fly miles away from your garden before they settle into an area.

While there are several reasons to avoid buying ladybugs, it can be an excellent way to introduce the critters into a greenhouse. Otherwise, you might be better off attracting the local population instead.

Now – this all being said, the ONLY way I would recommend buying ladybugs to put in your garden is if you have aphids or another detrimental insect that ladybugs will eat. This way, you’ve pretty much got the conditions needed for ladybugs to be successful AND solve your pest issue.

That’s a Wrap!

It might feel strange inviting bugs into your yard. But ladybugs make a great addition to any type of garden. If you want even more tips on how to get more ladybugs, read up on our article about 5 things that attract them!

They help keep your plants clear of damaging pests and can be a lot of fun to watch! So what are you waiting for?

Grab some water and brightly colored flowers, and start attracting your ladybug neighbors today!

References

Adunola, M. P., Fayeun, L. S., & Fadara, A. B. (2021). Impact of climate change on armyworm infestation on maize in Nigeria: A review. Journal of Plant Breeding and Crop Science, 13(3), 158-167. 

de Vos, M., & Jander, G. (2010). Volatile communication in plant–aphid interactions. Current opinion in plant biology, 13(4), 366-371.

Kundoo, A. A., & Khan, A. A. (2017). Coccinellids as biological control agents of soft-bodied insects: A review. Journal of Entomology and Zoology Studies, 5(5), 1362-1373.

Sarwar, M. (2016). Food habits or preferences and protecting or encouraging of native ladybugs (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae). International Journal of Zoology Studies, 1(3), 13-18.

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