Ladybugs used as natural pest control inside Mall of America
Why is it that we swat away every other bug that happens to land or crawl on us, but when a ladybug finds us, most of us observe it, count its spots, and maybe even blow it away and make a wish?
Ladybugs have become popularized in children’s stories and in popular media, so we tend to have a positive perception of these coccinellids being a cute and harmless bug. But another thing that these bugs are known for is being a predator of aphids.
Aphids are a destructive insect pest that affect many cultivated plants. Aphids feed on a variety of plants and those exhibiting aphid damage can experience decreased growth rates, wilting leaves, and browning.
So when the Mall of America was faced with an aphid problem what did they decide to do? Use ladybugs as a natural pest control, of course.
For those of you who have never been to the mall, this Bloomington Minnesota landmark is over four million square feet and includes not only retail space, but a theme park, an aquarium, a wedding chapel and much more.
The Mall also includes more than 30,000 live plants, including about 400 trees, which act as natural air purifiers for the indoor mall. And unfortunately these plants were being affected by aphids that were thriving inside the Mall of America’s landscaped areas.
According to reports, approximately 72,000 ladybugs have been released inside the fully enclosed shopping center and entertainment complex to combat the problem.
"Ladybugs are what I like to call, sort of a biological defense system," Lydell Newby, the Mall of America's senior manager of environmental services, told local news station KARE 11.
This is not the first time the mall has released ladybugs, reports the International Business Times, as in the past ladybugs were used as an alternative to commercial pesticides.
While some may argue that the addition of these ladybugs may become a nuisance themselves, by flying onto people and onto food, a mall spokesperson commented that the insects tend to spend their lives on plants.
Ladybug populations throughout North America have been changing rapidly, for reasons that may include climate change and land-use patterns. The Lost Ladybug Project is an effort (partly funded by the National Science Foundation) to track the insects' population across the continent.
For more information, see LiveScience.
Ladybug and aphid image via Shutterstock.