Ladybugs and the art of procrastination

Ladybug on Milkweed

Growing up, we're taught to not procrastinate. … "No time like the present." …  "Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."  and other cliches that imply we should ACT NOW.

I've since learned that procrastination, despite its bad rep, sometimes pays off nicely. Two months ago, for example, the air conditioner in my 2003 Hyundai Elantra stopped working (right after having some other work done on my car). I twice considered getting it fixed, but never followed through and now it's cooling just fine. I call it the Self-Healing Power of the Hyundai.

Ladybug and Aphids on Milkweed

Then there were the aphid-ridden milkweed plants in the garden. At first, I didn't realize these yellow things were even a problem. I honestly thought they were little yellow flecks of milkweed flowers and kind of beautiful. I didn't know they were living, crawling creatures sucking the life out of my milkweed until I noticed one day that they were moving and that the plants had begun to look like the life was being sucked out of them.

I began researching how to discourage aphids but I don't like using pesticides, picking off aphids by hand or killing bugs. So instead of dwelling on what to do about them I procrastinated and my plants got shabbier. Eventually many ladybugs moved into the garden and began eating the aphids, and mating and laying eggs. Granted, it's taken them quite awhile to get here  … but their presence, and the balance it's bringing to the garden, is much appreciated.

Ladybug Larvae on Milkweed

Before a few weeks ago, I had no idea how many different kinds of ladybugs there were (around 5,000 species worldwide) and had never seen a ladybug chrysalis (pictured below) or ladybug larvae (pictured above) which reportedly eat even more aphids than ladybugs do. So the last few weeks have been enlightening.

A big welcome to my new spotted friends. Please make yourselves at home and do watch out for those very resourceful milkweed assassin bugs that have begun to arrive ...  because they will snatch up your larvae.

Ladybug Chrysalis on Milkweed

As for the aphids who've been so comfortably residing in my garden for quite some time, they really did have a certain beauty and never meant to do any harm. The prolific tiny sapsuckers were simply trying to nourish themselves, much like all the other creatures.

I feel a little guilty over my happiness about the ladybug phase of the garden, knowing it will mean the aphids' demise.  But I'm pretty sure that more aphids will eventually return and once again have their time in the garden ...  That's just how the cycle goes, it seems.

Meanwhile, there are ladybugs, ladybug larvae and chrysalides. But when the aphids are gone the ladybugs will surely leave and the aphids will return, and I will see them enjoy their lives -- uninterrupted --  for as long as they can.

Two-Spotted Black Ladybug and Aphids on Milkweed