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How To Release Ladybugs Into Your Garden (& Why You Should)

A single ladybug crawls on the petal of a pink flower towards the center of the flower. The sun is shining.
This is one of a few hundred of the newest tenants in my garden.

If you’ve got an aphid problem you’re looking to fix, you’ve probably read that ladybugs are the solution. Using these cute little beetles to combat tiny green pests is an organic option we see all over the internet. In fact, we’re big fans of this approach here at Rural Sprout.

What you don’t often see is how.

Yes, ladybugs will eat aphids, but how do you get them to your plants in the first place? How do you get them to stay? There’s a lot of ambiguity around using these predatory bugs as pest control.

Well, today, we’re going to clear all of that up. By the end of this post, you’ll have all of the necessary information to:

  • Source ladybugs
  • When to order them
  • What to do when they arrive
  • How to apply them to your plants
  • When to apply them to your plants
  • And things you can do to encourage them to stick around

We’ll jump right into the details, and soon your aphid problem will be a thing of the past.

A freshly sprinkled potato plant. The ladybugs liked hiding under all the leaves.

Just to Recap

If you’re reading this, it’s probably safe to assume that you know the benefits of using ladybugs as pest control. These shiny little beetles can eat around 50 aphids a day, which is nothing to sneeze at. But did you know they’re also a great organic option for controlling other soft-bodied insects such as mites, leaf-hoppers and mealybugs?

If it’s soft and tiny, chances are it’s on the menu for a ladybug.

Close up of aphids crawling on the underside of a lettuce leaf.
Where there’s one, there’s…hundreds.

You can wait for ladybugs to gather in your garden of their own accord. If there’s food to eat, they will eventually show up. However, many gardeners need to hurry that process along to save their plants from hungry pests. Enter the mail order ladybug.

Where to Source Ladybugs

M. Olshan holds a small plastic container in the palm of his hand. Inside the lidded container are about 600 live ladybugs crawling over one another.
There are approximately six hundred ladybugs in this tiny container.

While it would be great to pop into your local garden center and pick up a few hundred ladybugs, most of these places don’t carry live insects. That means you’ll need to order them online. The good news is it’s pretty easy to do so.

I’ve put together a few sources to consider.


Like many online purchases, Amazon is a great place to start. You can pick up 1,500 live ladybugs from this page. Something to watch out for, the shipping dates on Amazon vary wildly from vendor to vendor.


I’ve personally purchased ladybugs from High Sierra Ladybugs on eBay. They shipped them out quickly, and the bugs arrived in great shape. These are the beetles featured in most of the photographs.

There are plenty of other vendors on eBay who sell ladybugs and have great reviews. Look around and ask questions before you buy.

Nature’s Good Guys

This site specializes in natural live pest control. It’s a great place to pick up ladybugs if you want to populate your garden with many different beneficial insects. Along with ladybugs, they also sell live green lacewings, nematodes, and even earthworms for your DIY vermicomposting tower.

When Should I Order Ladybugs?

When you order ladybugs is entirely up to you, but there are some things to consider.

You may want to receive your insects as soon as possible if you’ve got an ongoing pest issue. Or you may wish to prepopulate your garden with beneficial insects as the pests are beginning to arrive. In that case, you may choose to order your ladybugs at the beginning of the season when your garden starts to take off.

In any case, you’ll need to be able to time their arrival.

When choosing ladybugs, it’s important to know when they will be shipped. Many places ship within days, but depending on demand, others may take up to four weeks before your bugs are shipped. The ship date is an important factor to consider depending on your needs.

Don’t forget to factor in the weather when you’re ordering.

If you order ladybugs during a hot spell, some may die off in transit. Or worse, you could lose a batch entirely if they sit in a hot, metal mailbox all day. For this reason, it’s best to order only from a vendor that will provide tracking information.

You may also wish to purchase your ladybugs from a vendor that has a money-back guarantee or one that will replace bugs if they arrive dead.

What to do When Your Ladybugs Arrive

Close up of a mailing label on a cardboard box. The mailing label has a photo of a ladybug on it and it reads, "LIVE LADYBUGS, Do not expose to extreme heat or leave in a mailbox."
Help has arrived!

Bring your ladybugs inside as soon as you’re able. You want to get them out of the heat. Store them someplace dark and cool.

You can store them in your refrigerator until it’s time to release them. The cold will slow them down a bit, making them less likely to fly away.

Prep Your Garden for New Visitors

Ladybugs or lady beetles prefer cool, damp places with plenty of food to eat. If you don’t have aphids or other pests for them to snack on, it’s unlikely they will stick around. While you can use ladybugs as a preventative, you need to have some sort of pest population in your garden. Most gardeners can attest, this is rarely a problem.


If the weather permits, plan to release your lady beetles during a cool, rainy stretch. They will happily hunker down in your garden, hiding under plant leaves all while eating aphids. However, if the weather does not cooperate, you will need to mist your garden lightly before releasing your bugs.

Most garden hose attachments these days have a mist or shower setting that works great for this purpose. A sprinkler or watering can will work fine as well. While most vegetable plants prefer not to have their leaves wet, we’ll make an exception in this case.


Release the beetles at dusk, after the sun has gone down. If you release ladybugs during the day when the sun is shining, and it’s warm, they will fly away to find a cool, dark place to hide.


Keep an eye on the plants with aphids for a few days before you introduce ladybugs. If you have ants, which is quite common with plenty of aphids, you’ll need to deal with them first. Ants enjoy the honeydew produced by aphids and will jealously guard an aphid colony. Remember, we’re feeding aphids to the ladybugs, not ladybugs to the ants.

Release the Hounds!

Matthew Olshan sprinkles ladybugs over a bed of lettuce in his greenhouse. There is green netting and black metal barrels along the wall in front of him.
It’s raining ladybugs in Matthew’s greenhouse. As he was releasing the ladybugs in an enclosed space, Matthew didn’t have to worry about them flying away during the middle of the day.

If your beetles arrived in a mesh bag, it’s quite simple to release them. Trim the top off the bag and place it at the base of a plant for a few minutes. Move the bag around your garden until all the ladybugs have climbed out and you’ve covered your garden.

If your ladybugs came in a small plastic container, lucky you, you get to work quickly!

You get to be up close and personal with your new aphid control team. As soon as you open the lid, they will begin climbing out of the container. And onto you, and up your arm, etc.

M. Olshan's hand holds a tiny square plastic container filled with ladybugs. The lid is off the container and the ladybugs are climbing all over his fingers and up his arm.
Matthew Olshan was a good sport to hold still long enough to let me take a photo while the ladybugs raced up his arm.

In this scenario, it’s best not to take the lid off until you’re right next to the first plant you wish to “inoculate.” Once you remove the lid, you’ll need to work quickly, sprinkling ladybugs at the base of your plants while moving through your garden.

If you don’t manage to cover the entire garden, don’t worry. The ladybugs that stick around will spread out and follow the food.

A Staggered Aphid Attack

You will lose ladybugs. It happens. Even with proper planning and release, a few or many will fly away. For that reason, some folks like to release two batches a few days apart. If you plan to do this, store extra insects in the fridge until you’re ready for your second release.

Getting Your Ladybugs to Stick Around

A close up of a lettuce leaf with aphids crawling underneath it while I ladybug walks along the upper edge of the leaf.
Bye, bye aphids, your upstairs neighbor is hungry.

As I mentioned above, the best way to get ladybugs to hang around is to give them the perfect place to stay. They want moist conditions and plenty of shady spots to hide. And most importantly, they want food. So long as these conditions are met, you’ll have ladybugs.

And once your little ladybug colony is well established, you’ll even find these startling creatures among your plants.

Close up of an orange and black spined ladybug larva on a green lea.
It’s hard to believe this creepy thing will turn into something cute.

These are ladybug larvae. The next generation of aphid-munching beetles will be hanging out in your garden.

Another thing to consider when adding ladybugs to your garden is your other forms of pest control. Even something as simple as spraying with neem oil can persuade ladybugs to move on. While the neem oil only harms leaf-munching pests, you will be killing off the food supply for your beetles.

Be sure to think twice before using other types of pest control once your ladybugs are in play.

Using ladybugs as a natural form of pest control is highly effective, but it’s also a very hands-off approach. Once they are in your garden, you have to be willing to stand back and let them do their work. Even if that also means watching the aphids continue to suck on your plants.

Several ladybugs crawl around on the leaf of a basil plant in the sunshine. There are lettuce and kale leaves in the background.
Happy little beetles sunning themselves.

The ladybugs will eventually bring order to your garden; this can take some time.

In the end, though, you’ll have a colony of bugs who will happily do the work for you. Ladybugs are only one of many beneficial bugs you can put to good use in your garden. Here are eleven other insects you should welcome into your garden.

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Tracey Besemer

Hey there, my name is Tracey. I’m the editor-in-chief here at Rural Sprout.

Many of our readers already know me from our popular Sunday newsletters. (You are signed up for our newsletters, right?) Each Sunday, I send a friendly missive from my neck of the woods in Pennsylvania. It’s a bit like sitting on the front porch with a friend, discussing our gardens over a cup of tea.

Originally from upstate NY, I’m now an honorary Pennsylvanian, having lived here for the past 18 years.

I grew up spending weekends on my dad’s off-the-grid homestead, where I spent much of my childhood roaming the woods and getting my hands dirty.

I learned how to do things most little kids haven’t done in over a century.

Whether it was pressing apples in the fall for homemade cider, trudging through the early spring snows of upstate NY to tap trees for maple syrup, or canning everything that grew in the garden in the summer - there were always new adventures with each season.

As an adult, I continue to draw on the skills I learned as a kid. I love my Wi-Fi and knowing pizza is only a phone call away. And I’m okay with never revisiting the adventure that is using an outhouse in the middle of January.

These days, I tend to be almost a homesteader.

I take an eclectic approach to homesteading, utilizing modern convenience where I want and choosing the rustic ways of my childhood as they suit me.

I’m a firm believer in self-sufficiency, no matter where you live, and the power and pride that comes from doing something for yourself.

I’ve always had a garden, even when the only space available was the roof of my apartment building. I’ve been knitting since age seven, and I spin and dye my own wool as well. If you can ferment it, it’s probably in my pantry or on my kitchen counter. And I can’t go more than a few days without a trip into the woods looking for mushrooms, edible plants, or the sound of the wind in the trees.

You can follow my personal (crazy) homesteading adventures on Almost a Homesteader and Instagram as @aahomesteader.

Peace, love, and dirt under your nails,