If you Google 26 or 28 spotted ladybug/Ladybird/ladybeetle you'll find it described as a pest needing to be dealt with ASAP but in my experience, this beautiful looking insect isn't as bad as they say.
I've been growing food in our backyard for over a decade now and I can never recall a time when I actively needed to seek and destroy the 26/28 spotted ladybug but before I get onto how I manage (or don't) this potato leaf-eating pest, let's chat more about the bug itself.
About the 28 spotted ladybug and how to identify it
This bad ladybug here in Australia is commonly called 28 spotted because its supposed to have 28 black spots on its orange coloured body but I've only counted them in photos that I've taken because it's kind of impractical to try and count each spot as the tiny little creature is venturing around the garden. Besides, you could go crazy trying to positively identify this pest just through spots alone since some of them may not have 28 spots and may actually have 26 or even 23!
In this image (below) that I recently took you can count 14 spots on one side and these are usually mirrored on the other side, which makes 28 all up – go ahead and count them if you want…
Personally, I look for three main important characteristics when identifying a 28 spotted ladybug bird and they are:
- Looks – the 28 spotted ladybugs are generally larger than other types of ladybugs, they have a distinctive orange colour that is evenly covered in many black spots;
- Where they are found – 28 spotted ladybugs are usually found in the vegetable garden on potato leaves, tomato plants, eggplants, cabbages, and other common leafy crops;
- What they are doing – if you take the time to watch you'll see them chewing away and making small transparent holes in the foliage of plants. It's likely that by the time you first notice them it will be due to the damage caused by their eating as the evidence will be easy to see.
Organic control of the 28 spotted ladybug
Now, as I stated I have never needed to control the 28 spotted ladybug because it really hasn't been that much of a destructive pest in our garden. Normally, I will see 5 or 6 scattered around 10 or so potato plants and in these numbers, they don't do much damage at all.
However, I would actively control them if the numbers were really high per plant and the damage was likely to affect the harvest. How many? Well, I reckon if I saw 5 or 6 ladybugs per plant I'd probably cut the numbers down.
28 spotted ladybugs are easy to catch and squash or flick into a container with water or vinegar to drown. You could spray with pyrethrum but I'd call that an overkill and lazy. Personally, I would leave some on the plants just in case there were birds or other predator animals eyeing them off for a feed – I know that sounds a little religious but it's the way I roll….
Having said that, you should also watch out for the larvae of these small pests as they can become more destructive than the adult ladybugs themselves. Again, in small numbers, they won't do much damage but if there are many then eating the leaves can cause irreversible harm by causing overall plant collapse. So, be sure to keep an eye out and take action if you do see several larvae eating their way through your crop!
Look, and see the Earth through her eyes… 🙂