Never Buy Ladybugs!

Never buy Lady Bugs!! Seriously.

For those of us who know ‘bugs’, and know biological pest control, there is only one reason for commercially available, lab-produced ladybugs: They are the “gateway bug;” An insect that people regularly see, generally like, and view as the poster-icon for beneficial insects. If shopping for “ladybugs” and even applying them to your garden means you stop spraying chemicals, then that is OK with us. (Just by stopping the spray, the better beneficials will show up and do what ladybugs won’t.) But if you’re buying ladybugs, chances are they are not lab-produced, but collected from the wild.

If you want to know why buying ladybugs is a detriment to the environment, native ladybugs and to your garden, read on. If you need to control an aphid problem right now, click here. Or for more comprehensive information on aphids: (Everything You Need to Know About Aphids – Including How to Control Them) click here.

The key to the above statement is ‘lab-produced.’ If you do not get properly reared insects then they are massively detrimental to the environment, our industry, and your garden. 

Read on, and learn why the commercial trade of ladybugs should stop and why you should never buy ladybugs. 

1. They are harvested from the wild in the US. Their numbers have been decimated and populations weakened which has allowed for competition from Asian Ladybug.

2. They bring with them ladybug parasites that are transferred to our local population.

Buckwheat and alyssum attract predatory wasps of aphids. Look at the black aphids, and how many have been parasitized (the brown, round ones).

3. They are collected during hibernation and refrigerated, but are migratory – which means they will eat a few aphids then go back to Colorado. The ones you release are not the ones you see in your garden (there are many native species).

Want to watch a video instead? Click here for my video “Never Buy LadyBugs”.

4. The trade is by special permit to collect from the wild which has been being fought by environmental groups since the 60’s.

Black aphid on sunflower. I never treat aphids in my yard. I’d rather sacrifice a plant to attract predators them remove aphids (the gummy bears of nature – everything wants to eat them.)

5. Ladybugs are known to eat aphids, but actually graze and are not as important for aphid controls as other predators (we just recognize them and see them because they are big and colourful.)

“Commercial insectaries distribute beetles that have been “harvested” from natural winter aggregation sites. If lady beetles are collected in this dormant state and transported for field release, even among aphid infestations, they usually migrate before feeding and laying eggs. This migratory behavior before feeding is obligatory. Releases of such “harvested” convergent lady beetles could be a waste of time, money, and beetles. Insectaries may feed the adult beetles a special diet after they have been collected to minimize their migratory behavior. Only such preconditioned beetles should be purchased. Additionally, these harvested beetles may be parasitized.” 

(Cornell University:   )

6. Native, commercially available and sustainably produced beneficial insects are produced in Canada and the US for more effective aphid control.

Hoverfly adult
Eupeodes americanus – the American Hoverfly. Maybe the top aphid predator.

7. Aphidoletes aphidimyza is the number one choice for commercial greenhouses and outdoor nurseries and landscape gardens. It is a midge, who’s larva can eat hundreds of aphids, and the adults lay hundreds of eggs – it just simply works. You can also buy the hoverfly “Eupeodes americanus,” (which is an important pollinator as an adult and it’s larva eats more aphids than any other) or brown lacewing “Micromus variegatus” which is nocturnal (so people don’t know it exists) and eats far more aphids than ladybugs.

Adult only
Micromus variegatus – The BrownLacewing. Small, elusive, but a top aphid and generalist predator that stays in your yard.

Check out these alternatives to ladybugs.

8. They are produced in British Columbia and sold through Canadian and American Distributors. Just think: You can support local business while saving the environment!

Here is a link to distributors:

 9. The international organization of biocontrol producers forbids the resale of wild-collected insects/mites. 

“IOBC Global: The International Organization for Biological Control (IOBC) was established in 1956 to promote environmentally safe methods of pest and disease control in plant protection.”

10. I’m not making any of this up. Cornell University has done extensive work on this subject. They even have a project at which is hoping to teach people to identify and protect the native ladybug species (which you don’t need to buy). They even marked commercially bought ladybugs and released them and some were found by entomologists at UofC Davis a short time after (across the continent).

11. For aphid control, native parasitic wasps called Aphidius will also volunteer in your yard if you don’t use chemicals and don’t spray with dish soap or something harmful like that. They look like bronze, swollen aphids. Chances are you have them, which means, chances are, aphid populations are on the decline anyways. And Aphidius are just the tip of the iceberg. You can expect all sorts of native beneficial insects to show up and eat your aphids if your garden is healthy, organic and not sprayed with any soap, detergent, acid, base, or chemical.

Untreated – this cabbage was quickly cleared of Cabbage aphid by a native Aphidius (a parasitic wasp of aphids). The swollen, bronze aphids have been parasitized – likely all the others too.

12. Plant a variety of plants. Let plants flower or grow them for their flowers. Consider leaving leaf-debris to provide over-wintering sites for native ladybugs when there is no risk of spreading plant disease.  

13. Never use a home-made “bug spray” or a commercial chemical product. Even home remedies use a soap or detergent or acid. This strips the wax coating off the plants leaves, weakening them and making them more attractive to the next wave of pests. In the meantime you have also killed the predators – which can detect soap residues or see the plant stress as it reflects a different wavelength, and the predators will not return. 

14. Lastly, ladybugs are simply not the best predator of aphids. You’ll see them in the thousands on an infested tree, but they always show up late to the party; it’s part of their survival. They wait until populations can support their larval development. Adults eat a few, lay eggs and leave. While the larva are voracious, aphids recognize them and use defence mechanisms like kicking, walking away or dropping from the plant. Vermiform larva (worm like) like Aphidoletes or the hoverfly do not illicit aphid defence mechanisms and are proven to out-perform ladybugs in aphid predation larva to larva. Combine that with a shorter life-cycle (two weeks for Aphidoletes) and you get a massively-efficient knockdown of aphids. Plus, as Aphidoletes will almost only eat aphids, it can be released as a preventative (when aphid numbers are low) and they will find and eliminate them.

A.a. predation 2
Aphidoletes larva sneaking up and feeding on an aphid from underneath. 

So there you have it – a non-exhaustive list of reasons not to buy ladybugs.

I will however add this: “ladybugs” is a relatively poor term. We associate it with the red, orange and yellow round bodied beetles, but sometimes the term includes all coccinellidae beetles (round bodied shape). Some of these (typically black) are commercially reared and target other pests, like Stethorus punctillum for Spider mite control and Delphastus catalinae for whitefly control. These are lab-reared, and top predators of their specific hosts, so of course you can buy those. Also available is Crytolaemus montrouzieri to control some mealybug species. 

If you absolutely need to control aphids, please source out the right beneficial insect. But as always, remember that aphids are food for a huge number of predators – and they WILL show up. Planting a variety of plants for bio-diversity should be equated with allowing pest populations to exist to help with the bio-diversity of natural predators. 

Check out my Youtube Channel for more like this:

Check out some of my related posts:

How to Control Aphids

Cannabis Pest Control for a Home Grower

Aphid Control in a Garden

Alternatives to Applying LadyBugs

Know Your Bugs: The American Hoverfly

Know your Bugs – Brown Lacewing

Holy Aphids!

Using Beneficial Insects in your Home Garden

Never buy ladybugs

21 thoughts on “Never Buy Ladybugs!

Add yours

  1. Hi, I want to buy ladybugs because that’s all that I know of, to control my aphid problem on my hop vines and Lupins perennials, what would you suggest to substitute? Where can I buy the substitute online? Thank you, I’m a stay at home mom, I don’t drive.

    Stay safe,


  2. Hey, David! Helpful post. Thanks! I too am in Victoria and have an aphid infestation underway. Where do you recommend I get me some buggies locally? And is there something specific to Victoria (lacewings?) that’s more successful here?

    I want to be sure I’m getting them from a good source. Appreciate it. 🙂

    1. For sure! Go with Aphidoletes, they are great here. Russel Nursery in North Saanich, Mr. Fertilizer on Harriet and Burnside and a few other places around town can hook you up. Thanks.

  3. I have spider mites. And caterpillars. The spider mites on my cactus are really pushing them to death. I’ve tried letting nature take it’s course, but I have a special cactus my mama gave us. I need help, was considering predatory notes. Is this your recommendation? If there is a pollinator to do that job I would prefer using them. Thanks for the tips about ladies. I will remember that if I get aphids taking over.

  4. Thank you for this article. I am trying to control leafhoppers. Inside on large (indoor hobbyist large) herb garden. What beneficial bugs could help?

    1. Hi Eric. Thanks for reading. Where do you live? In Canada I have two beneficial insects/mites that HELP control leafhoppers. One of those is available in Europe and neither in the US.
      Leafhoppers are interesting in that they were never considered an economic pest until recently. So we don’t have decades of biological control research to fight them.
      We don’t even know what has changed: did they develop chemical resistance? Or did we accidentally kill off a native predator or parasitoid?
      The problem with the two biocontrol options is the cost for an indoor setting is very likely not worth it. And it is tough to keep them active in small indoor conditions. So, typical chemistry controls ( neem oil for example) might be a better option.

      If you are able and interested, the two know predators commercially available are:

      Micromus variegatus (Canada and Europe) the Brown Lacewing.

      Anystis baccarum (Canada only) the “Crazee” or “whirligig” mite.

      Hope that helps! (Oh, and ambush, “daddy long legs” and jumping spiders are all natural predators of them.

  5. Thanks, I’m in SK and wanted to raise some ladybugs in my classroom but I think I’ll steer clear.

    1. Hang-on! For education purposes, it’s a great idea. Even the store bought kind could be raised and then released. Yes, you’re supporting the wild collection, but you wouldn’t need many.
      Alternatively, you can just bring in the first one you find outdoors.
      You might not get the full lifecycle before summer break, but it would still be interesting.

      To get captive ladybugs to lay eggs, you need very bright lights for long days (as if outside in late Spring). And each species have a threshold of prey available before they lay eggs. So you’ll also want to raise aphids separately and provide a heavily infested plant.

Leave a Reply

Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: