Many garden supply stores offer ladybugs as a form of natural pest control. In addition to physically going to a garden store to purchase the insects, consumers can also order them through the Internet or a mail order catalog service, and the colorful beetles will arrive within a few days, usually in a mesh bag inside of a sturdy ventilated box. The bugs can be released into the garden or used for educational projects, and usually multiple generations will breed from a single order.
There are many species in the Coccinellidae family, but the classic ladybug is orange or red with black spots. These bugs are excellent for natural pest control, because they eat aphids, worms, gnats, and other garden insects. In addition, the larvae will also eat garden pests, meaning that even as the older generation is dying off, the younger ones will step in. For gardeners who are trying to garden organically, or want to garden more cheaply, these insects are an excellent way to protect crops and ornamental gardens from infestation.
When mail ordering ladybugs, you can order various amounts of them, depending on the size of the garden. A small bag with several hundred bugs is usually quite cheap, but people with large areas to cover can also order several thousand. The cost for a single bag is significantly cheaper than chemical forms of pest control, and typically includes next day shipping so that the insects will arrive healthy. When the box is delivered, it can be taken out into the garden and opened in the evening, along with the mesh bag inside. Most gardeners set the box out for several hours, allowing all of the bugs to get out and explore on their own, although a larger box may be divided up into several sections to ensure that the whole garden is covered.
The bugs can also be stored under refrigeration, slowly consuming their own body fat. If a staggered release is planned, a large box can be ordered and broken up into several smaller packages. Keep them in a mesh bag and lightly spritz them with water every two weeks to keep them moist. If well stored and not allowed to get too cold, the bugs can survive for up to three months in the refrigerator and will revive once they are brought outside.
Mail order ladybugs are also available for educational uses, usually in much smaller quantities and sometimes with educational tools including a small terrarium for the insects to live in, along with magnifying glasses and an informational pamphlet about them. This can be a fun way to bring nature into a science classroom, especially for young children in urban areas. Many supply companies offer discounts to teachers and other educational professionals as well.