Garden

Is the beloved ladybird a friend or foe in the garden?

Let's find out together.

Red with black polka dots may ensue a smile from a gardener, but do they help or hurt in the garden?

The sweet little ladybug is generally seen as a friend in the garden. Some people even believe it’s lucky when one lands on you! Ladybirds are so beloved that they adorn all manner of products, from teapots to t-shirts and everything in between!

But for your plants, vegies and flowers, is there any luck involved? Let’s find out whether ladybirds are actually good for the garden. 

Different types of ladybirds

Ladybirds are also known as ladybugs or lady beetles. There are over 200 species of ladybirds within Australia alone, both native and introduced, and over 6,000 species across the world. 

Surprisingly, not all of them sport the tell-tale colouring of red or orange with black spots.

ladybird-good-for-gardens
(Credit: Getty)

Ladybugs can also come in a variety of colours and can be striped, spotted or iridescent. Some even have hair on them!

The four most common Australian ladybugs are: 

  • The common spotted ladybird (Harmonia conformis)
  • The mealybug ladybird (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri)
  • The fungus eating ladybird (Illeis galbula)
  • The 28-spotted or leaf eating ladybird (Epilachna vigintioctopunctata)

Are ladybugs good for the garden?

Most of the Australian ladybugs are actually great for the garden, and provide amazing support for plants that are experiencing fungal or pest problems. 

ladybug-eating-aphid
(Credit: Getty)

Ladybirds can help by preying on and eating: 

  • Aphids
  • Psyllids
  • Scale insects 
  • Mites 
  • Mealy bug
  • Mildew fungus

Most ladybird species that help with pest problems can actually be bought as a pest control measure for crops and farms. 

Which ladybirds are bad for the garden?

However, there are 8 species, out of around 200, that are leaf-eating ladybugs, and can be very detrimental to even the smallest of vegie patches. Leaf-eating ladybirds are vegetarian bugs that eat their way through their favourite plants. 

For many Aussies, the main ladybird that causes all the problems is the 28-spotted ladybird. 

28-spotted-ladybug
28-spotted ladybug (Epilachna vigintioctopunctata) (Credit: Getty)

Both the larvae and the adult 28-spotted ladybird love eating the leaves of vegie garden staples: tomatoes, potatoes, capsicums and eggplants.

Anything in the Solanaceae family will get a severe leaf trim from this species of ladybug. This includes not only vegetables, but also plants such as nightshade and petunia. Their other favourite plant is actually blackberry nightshade, which is a commonly grown weed around Australia. 

Unfortunately, the most effective way to rid your garden of these pretty pests is by removing them by hand. If you have any blackberry nightshade present in your yard, the best thing to do would be removing it. By getting rid of their fave snack, the 28-spotted ladybird will tend to move on to find another source. 

Overall, the ladybug is definitely a friend, apart from a couple here or there that we all have to watch out for!

You may also like: 

4 common plants that repel aphids from your garden

3 natural ways to stop aphids from destroying your garden

3 ways to get rid of mealybugs in indoor plants

Related stories