To build a garden that attracts ladybugs, you need to have more than lots of nasty aphids. Besides eating aphids, lady beetles depend on pollen as a food source and seek certain types of flowering plants. Most of their favorites are super easy to grow in Wisconsin and are a pretty addition to a flower or vegetable bed.
The most popular flowers with ladybugs have umbrella shaped flowers such as fennel, dill, cilantro, caraway, angelica, tansy, wild carrot and yarrow. Other plants that also attract ladybugs include cosmos (especially the white ones), coreopsis and scented geraniums (like in the photo above). Yes, ladybugs are fond of dandelions too, but I’m not introducing more into my yard or flower beds.
You can also attract ladybugs by cutting back or ceasing the use of insecticides in your garden. Not only are ladybugs sensitive to most synthetic insecticides, but if the majority of their food source is gone, they will leave to find food. As difficult as it may be – allowing aphids to live on certain plants – it is necessary to ensure that there is enough food for ladybugs. By leaving aphids, you provide the ladybug population with the food source upon which it thrives, avoid killing any of the ladybug larvae and encourage egg laying. Remember that the ladybugs will provide a natural check against the aphids, keeping them under control.
Plus if you remember back to my article on endangered bees, it helps them too.
If you are concerned that you don’t have enough of the favored plants or aphids to attract or retain your ladybug population, you can purchase or build a ladybug feeding station. Bait these natural bamboo feeding stations with a raisin or two to welcome ladybugs into your garden and provide food when aphids are scarce.