Sunday, April 14, 2013

You Cannot Trust Ladybugs

So I’m at Callahan’s yesterday buying some flowers for some pots I keep in our backyard.  At the checkout stand my attention is drawn to some movement off to one side.  It was a display of translucent sleeves of live ladybugs, 1500 per sleeve, it said, scrabbling uncomfortably over one another.   There was a sponge in there to keep things  moist, and because the market for sleeves of hundreds of dead ladybugs is negligible.   

The card said that they were buddies of the backyard, voracious consumers of aphids and fungus because they reproduced prodigiously – not such ladies after all! -- and would keep the landscaping blight-free all season long.   

Now I had never seen any aphids or fungus in our lushly landscaped postage-stamp backyard, but ‘phids – well, you know how they are.  And fungi!  You never know when their population might explode – their morals are also notoriously suspect – and attack the house.  

I was seized with the passion to liberate these little pals of innocent greenery and I bought two sleeves.  (By the way, ladybugs are not true bugs; they are beetles, and your entomologist would prefer that you refer to them as “ladybird beetles.”)  

I followed the directions with care, refrigerating them for an hour before release into the cool of the early evening onto pre-moistened plants, so they would have something to drink after escaping from that rancid little sponge.  I slit opened the sleeves and placed them on a couple of bushes.  They escaped with alacrity and began exploring the bushes.  Some took to the air as I spent some time removing a few of the more adventuresome ones from my person.  (I really need to throw out that “Eau de Maggot” aftershave.)  

I went inside and over the next two hours discovered a few that had hitched a ride in the folds of my ladybug-releasing outfit (loose fitting camo and a “BigButt Cigar” promotional cap I was gifted at a local smoke shop where I used to trade).   

Huh.  “48 Hours” fans, I guess.  

I went out this morning expecting to encounter a riotous banquet of Coccinellidae  munching merrily on landscape pests.  In my tour of the backyard, I saw precisely one ladybug.  


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