I caught a glimpse of this little friend while I was out digging in the dirt today. It reminded me of a few years back when I ordered over 1000 ladybugs online to clean up some of the bug issues I was having on my almond trees.
My first mistake was ordering them anytime close to a holiday weekend. We live just far enough away from town to make any errand impossible to get done in less than an hour, so Amazon Prime is usually my best plan B. I was so excited when I found live ladybugs listed. I ordered them and waited.
Well, not all orders ship via UPS or FedEx. Every once in a while, Amazon ships via the USPS. It just so happens that the Postal Service has a policy not to deliver anything marked “live” to your doorstep. Instead, they leave a note in your mail receptical that you have a package waiting for you at the post office for pick-up containing some form of “live” creatures. Unfortunately, for the ladybugs, this notice was left in a mailbox that was checked only when I knew to expect something by mail. It wasn’t until the ladybugs were already late to arrive that I found the notice. To make matters worse, I found it exactly at 5:05pm the Friday before the 4th of July weekend. It wasn’t looking good at all for these thousand ladybugs, already more than a week out from the original ship date.
Bright and early Tuesday morning, I arrived to retrieve my padded envelope, (Seriously. They were flat packed!) and was pleasantly surprised to see that many had survived. I rushed home, dipped a sponge in watered down honey, hydrated the little bugs and sugared them up. Several had died but most didn’t. I couldn’t wait to turn them loose on the trees.
I waited a day, per the instructions, made a sugar water spray, also per instructions, liberally sprayed some limbs and opened the bag of ladybugs, hanging it from the sugary limbs.
It took about 60 minutes for the ants to find the sugary branches. Now I had aphid and ant problems and the ladybugs seemed to basically disappear. I saw some in the branches but not the hundreds I expected. It looked more like 50. To add insult to injury, the Terminix guy arrived for the quarterly bug spray about 90 minutes after I released the ladybugs. Any that were hiding near the perimeter of the house had just been handed a death sentence.
I made myself feel better by telling myself that had they stayed on the trees, they would have been fine. This twist of fate was on them, not me, and I was fine with that – at least until the sun began setting and the Swallows made their nightly flight through the garden. It was horrifying. Aphids eat tender tree leaves, ladybugs eat aphids and Swallows eat ladybugs. It was a ladybug massacre and other than shooing away the birds, all I could do was watch and think, “What have I done?”
Needless to say, that was my last ladybug purchase. It also should explain why I get so excited to see a red speckle appear on a tree branch from time to time. It gives me hope that maybe 1 or 2 survived.