Thursday, April 19, 2007

Flight of the Bumble… er, Ladybug

Here’s a little secret: When I go to any of what mom-and-pop-shop owners call, “Big Box” stores, those wildly busy home super stores that carry most anything you can possibly imagine—yes, I mean Target, Home Depot, Lowes, Sam’s Club; where else do I go? Certainly not the cesspool that has become of all WalMarts—I park in the garden section. There’s always ample parking because people think that if they’re not buying anything in the garden section, there’s no need to park there and walk all the way across the store. Funny thing is that, no matter who you are, you walk three miles through Target anyway, and the joke is on you because now you have to wait in line to check out with all the other schlubs and then hoof it through fifteen acres of deadly blacktop to find your car.

The garden section solves all of those problems, and more. What’s more? Got aphids? Garden section can help.

I forget why I was at Home Depot the last time I was there, but undoubtedly I found myself in the garden section waiting behind an indecisive lady who was pondering the many possibilities gardenias have to offer the curb appeal of her double-wide, and in one of those moments of boredom, my eyes wandered to the various “point-of-purchase” impulse buys they have littered around the checkout stand. What caught my eye were several packages of ladybugs and a few packages of praying manti (is that the plural for a praying mantis?).

The package said it contained 1500 ladybugs and I wasn’t sure how that was possible. One hundred and fifty maybe, so it could have been a typo, unless they were all pregnant with 10 offspring each. I didn’t see any little maternity nurses walking around with tiny speculums or a bunch of gentlemen ladybugs smoking cigars and chucking each other on the shoulders for a job well done (man’s only true responsibility in the whole reproductive process). There was nothing but a bunch of creeping ladybugs scurrying around in the mesh bag. It looked like a little prison for bugs and I think they would be most delighted to come to my house and enjoy some freedom.

In that moment, I pictured the glee of Matthew and Natalie screaming about the lawn, chasing flitting ladybugs… and I pictured all of my aphid problems solved. Well, first off, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an aphid “in the wild,” and second off, I’m not sure if they’re an actual problem where I live.

So I bought them anyway. It was only four dollars. I’m sure their diet doesn’t consist solely on aphids. I’m certain they eat other things my yard has in plenitude. How about ants? Can they eat those. That’d be nice. In the cart they go and back to my house.

Natalie was sure excited to see them; next to butterflies, I think ladybugs come in a close second on her list of favorites. The package suggested that they be released just after sunset and into wet plants, preferably flowers, so they’ll settle in and sleep. As luck would have it, the plants that ring our patio (I don’t know what they’re called) had just started blooming, and each plant was bursting with tiny pink flowers I’m sure ladybugs would just love to nestle into for the night.

The sun had dipped below the horizon and the sky was turning a dark blue. The air was still and it was relatively warm. Natalie filled up her watering can and went around to each bush and sprinkled it with a healthy dose of water for the bugs. I clipped a corner of the mesh bag, careful not to sever any of the little gals in half (how horrible a sight that would be for them?) and I began to sprinkle them around the flowers. Most were willing to go, as they tumbled into the bushes, but some were reluctant. With a little coaxing, they joined their friends among the flowers.

And all was happy in the garden.

The next morning, before I went outside, I pictured the yard swarming with scores of red and black little bugs, eating a bounty of aphids and multiplying like rabbits. I pictured the neighborhood kids, walking by our house, calling it the “ladybug house.” You need ladybugs, you go there.

I walked outside to see the swarms and I saw nothing. Okay, they’re still sleeping, maybe. I inspected the bushes where we put them. Empty. I looked around the ground. Nothing.

That was three weeks ago, and to this day, I have yet to see a single ladybug in our yard. What’s more is that I’ve never even see a dead one… not one single carcass anywhere. And it’s not like I haven’t looked either. I’ve been on my hands and knees investigating the bushes around the prison break and all that remains is the barren tuft of grass they arrived with. It’s a conspiracy, as I’m sure they’re well on their way back to Home Depot to be packaged up again and sent out with another unsuspecting buyer.

So, beware: There are packages of homing ladybugs out there waiting to be set free... again and again and again!

1 comment:

Le Anne said...

I think that ladybugs are actually males. Also, I read somewhere that if you do not have aphids then the ladybugs will not stick around at all. So,um, there is one thing that I know that you didn't. Just one! HA HA


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