NATURE: Ladybugs tickle kids, tackle pests

Posted on August 3rd, 2010 by americanindiannews in Past News, Recent News

Several times each summer, employees at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian release ladybugs into its landscape as a natural control for aphids. Each of the diminutive beetles will eat thousands of the plant-sucking pests in its lifetime.

Photo by Glenna Augborne, Diné, of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian - Ladybugs are released into the hand of child who will place them in the croplands at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The ladybugs, as many as 10,000 a year, are released to naturally control aphids and other plant pests in the museum’s indigenous American landscape.

The ladybug releases are made joyous by local children who join museum staff in releasing the bugs on the sunny southern side of the Washington museum, where corn, beans and squash are just some of the indigenous American crops grown and enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.

The bugs arrive in little burlap sacks in which they are refrigerated and kept dormant until release. The ladybugs emerge onto the arms and legs of the children, then fly or crawl off into the museum’s popular public garden. The mostly preschoolers at the recent event said the ladybugs tickled their skin.

A 4-year-old said she liked the ladybug’s red color. A 5-year-old liked their spots. Another said, “I like that they eat other bugs.”

Over 450 different lady beetles, ladybugs and ladybird beetles live in North America. Some are native and others were imported from Europe or Asia for use by farmers. While the most familiar are red, the beetles can also be white, yellow, pink or orange.

Hayes Lavis, a cultural arts program specialist, said the museum typically releases 10,000 ladybugs at a time, knowing that 90 percent of them will migrate to the nearby U.S. Botanical Garden. Lavis’ main hope is that the ladybugs will reproduce because these insects will eat 10 times their body weight in aphids, thrips, scale insects and mites daily.

The museum will release ladybugs later this summer at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 6 and Friday, Aug. 20.

American Indian News Service

National Museum of the American Indian public affairs intern Ellen Dobrowolski, Métis, contributed to this report.

a href=”http://www.americanindiannews.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/v3i4-ladybugrelease.doc”>Download this article as a Word document.

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