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Ladybugs find home in city (with video)

Apr 25 2012

A smiling Abby Urquhart, 6, took the day off school Tuesday so she and her parents could watch Victoria city staff release 35,000 ladybugs onto downtown trees.

Each spring, city parks crews introduce more than 100,000 ladybugs over a six-week period to help fend off aphids, common garden pests that suck sap from plants and can cause wilting.

Ladybugs are also a fascination for Abby. "She can spot them just about anywhere. We'll be at the park and she can find one," said her mother, Kathy Stables.

A single ladybug can eat thousands of insects over its lifetime of one to two years. The spotted bugs, which feed on beetle larvae, spider mites and more than 50 aphid species, are part of the city's integrated pest management program and have been used since 1994 as an alternative to pesticides on public lands.

"The downtown core is particularly hard [for trees]," said Michelle Gorman, the city's integrated pest management co-ordinator. "With all the pavement, these trees get very stressed, and stressed trees really bring in a lot of aphids."

Aphid colonies can overwhelm a tree or plant - often recognizable by spotty yellow discolouration on leaves or the tips of branches. They can damage plants by sucking the sap from leaves, twigs, stems and roots and can even transmit plant viruses.

Victoria released about 200,000 ladybugs last year, but with the cold winter, fewer could be needed this year, Gorman said.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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