Towards the end of summer we invariably start to see pests devouring plants and diseases ruining our crops. Some common problems arise every season and are predictable enough to take evasive action. One of these culprits is the 28-spotted ladybird.
What you’ll probably see is their destructive tell-tale signs before you actually see the beetles. One day your zucchini might look vigorous and healthy, the next it seems to have something akin to a bad case of the measles! Here’s a picture of my damaged zucchini leaves.
Whether you call them ladybirds, ladybugs or lady beetles, not all of them are created equal, apparently! With over 3000 species worldwide, including more than 400 here in Australia, there’s a lot of them about. The majority of them are beneficial in the garden, acting as natural predators against other pests, but this one isn’t a good guy. Here’s the adult ladybird munching away on my zucchini, making haste on a tasty dinner. Notice the number of spots, being much smaller than your regular ladybird.
Now have a look at what the juvenile form looks like. It’s yellow-orange body is covered with some hideous looking black spines. You would never guess that this creature turns into a ladybird, would you?
We often miss this stage because we look at our gardens from the top down. But underneath the leaf surface is where all the partying goes on. The eggs are laid on the underside of the leaf for protection from predators, then after it hatches, the larvae feeds voraciously on the leaf without us noticing. So it’s important to check under your leaves regularly for the first signs of these critters.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, you can discover them early. I simply remove them by hand and squash them or feed them to the chickens. Taking action early means that numbers don’t build up too fiercely and hand removal is all you will need without the use of any pesticide.
A great book to find out what good bugs and bad bugs in your garden look like is Jane Davenport’s The Garden Guardians. Read my review here.