I might have just stumbled upon a perfect parenting move. This project includes pest-control, science, biology, entomology, artwork, outside play, and gardening all in one big week-long project. All other super-parents, put down your Montessori books, your BabyGenius DVDs, an your sensory boxes to bow down to the Ladybug project.
It all started when I found it necessary to get on my husband’s case to trim the front hedge before it blocked all sunlight from our front windows. When I took him out to demonstrate what a monstrosity they had become, I noticed little gross things covering the bushes. Aphids. In all lifecycle stages. Everywhere. Grooooooossssss.
Now being a “I can do it all” type, I didn’t have time or energy to put on my rainbows and sunhat and head out to one of the many natural gardening meccas here in Austin. So, I did what any reasonable person would do and ordered Ladybugs from Amazon.com. 1500 of them. Not messing around, y’all. Amazon also has ladybug houses for sale to help keep your ladybug investment around (and procreating), but that just gave me an idea… DIY ladybug houses. I mean, if I can build real houses from scratch, surely I can come up with something for bugs. So I googled.
While the ladybugs were en-route…
I found that the ladybug houses are made from natural material and have little compartments for little ladybug families to settle into. We started with the $1 little wooden birdhouses sold at Michaels. I showed the kids the little aphids on the plants and explained that ladybugs were coming to help us get rid of the bad bugs because they love to eat them. They each selected 2 of the ready-made houses each plus 2 for me, and we left with our 6 houses plus a multi-pack of acrylic paints to make a project out of it. Ladybugs probably hate paint, but this is when I decided that our aphid problem could occupy and educate my children. If we wanted our ladybugs to stay, they needed houses, right?
I drilled holes in them, or “ladybug doors” as I explained to the children. They picked with houses they were going to paint and handed me their least favorites. They asked for a squirt of each color and then used only their favorites because kids are adorable, wasteful hoarders.
And we went to town…literally… creating our little village of ladybug houses.
My free-spirited child experimented with mixing paint colors. “What does red & blue mix to? What about purple and blue? What about red and green?” Science, y’all. Winning at parenting.
They got messy and it was totally alright. We were outside getting some fresh air, learning about colors & bugs while using our hands and creating masterpieces.
Of course, while my free spirit free-spirited, the enforcer rolled her eyes at her sister and carefully stayed in the lines with solid-colored siding and contrasting roof colors “that ladybugs like”.
Once the little houses were thoroughly art-ed, we collected “ladybug furniture” so ladybugs would have what Dr. Google suggested they would like with little nooks and crannies in their houses. Yep, now we were exploring nature with this project. It’s a whole chain-reaction of super-parenting. According to my kids, the double-acorn stems are the ladybugs favorites. Apparently they are ladybug-wispering savants in their free time.
After we had collected a variety of ladybug furniture items, we loosely packed them into the little houses.
Then hung the houses in the aphid-infested shrubs to await their future residents.
6 days after ordering our 1500 Ladybugs, they arrived in a mesh bag inside a ventilated box. You know what’s surprisingly disturbing? Watching 1500 anxious, young ladybugs in a mesh bag. <shudder> The kids thought it was really cool and loved watching the ladybugs’ feet make “whiskers” on the side of the bag. Kids are weird. More learning discussions ensued. We read the included info sheet and instructions which explained that the best time to release the bugs was in the evening when it is cooler and the bugs are less active (less likely to immediately take off and fly away), so “we” made the decision that we would release them between dinner and bath time.
Finally, the kids had pushed their veggies aside, loaded up on mac & cheese, and put on their best princess dresses to welcome the ladybugs home. We sprayed the bushes with the infestation with water since as our info sheet explained, the ladybugs would be thirsty.
I carefully cut the corner of the bag open (but should have cut it open more) and they immediately began racing out. It reminded me a bit of the health-science videos in sex-ed, but I left that anecdote out. They were off to the races.
They were famished, ultra thirsty little bugs. A few stopped and grabbed an aphid on the way, but they were mostly interested in water first. Once the high-speed ladybugs had emerged, I ribbed the bag open more to led the less-gifted ladybugs out. We are equal-opportunity employers when it comes to our hired aphid-destroyers.
The ladybug release was filled with precious moments. Chloe (4 years old) attempted to personally ask each ladybug to “please go eat those bad-guy bugs for me and my family, okay?” while Cora reassured them that our shrubs were a safe place for them.
After they had a sip of water, there were off to the buffet. My husband was sure I was nuts for releasing ladybugs, sure they would all fly off. A few rebels took off, but most were happy to sip on water and munch on aphids with a side of aphid larvae. I was pleased that we combined a chore with art and a number of science lessons in a week-long activity…
… even if we did leave a few details out, like how the ladybugs make the families to fill their homes with. But, mission accomplished. Our 1500 lady bugs should have a return on investment with future generations.
Super-parent status: advanced.
How about we close with some ladybug facts:
- Ladybugs are technically beetles
- A ladybugs can consume 5,000 aphids in its lifetime
- A lady ladybug can lay up to 1,000 eggs in its lifetime
- Ladybugs hibernate in winter
- Ladybugs can live 2-3 years in the wild
Up for more fun with kids + ladybugs?
You can buy a ladybug kit for more indoor fun learning with ladybugs.