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Re: Ecological impact of ladybug harvesting
As one who lives about 30 miles fro prime ladybug hqarvesting grounds, I have
long been concerned about this very issue.
Lady bugs are indeed harvested from the wild here in our own Sierra Nevada
foothills where the migrate in Spring as the Sacramento and San Joaquin
valleys warm up. They rest and breed up here much as Monarch butterflies
overwinter along our coast in the Monterey area. Lady bugs gather in large
groups on the floor of pine forests and are easily scooped up with a bucket.
Collecting areas are a jealously guarded secret, although some companies
have been known to advertise for Lady bug collectors in the local papers.
Acquaintences of mine in the insectiary business tell me they have never been
able to successfully breed Lady bugs in captivity, so, to the best of my
knowledge, your Lady bugs are wild collected. The populations are at the
mercy of paid collectors who ostensibly leave some in the wild to
re-populate. This is obviously a dicey proposition when you advertise for
collectors and pay the per pound collected.
I personally think the whole Lady bug industry is a disaster waiting to
happen if someone doesn't learn how to captive breed this helpful insect --
unlikely to happen as long as the wild population remains easy pickin's.
This year's shortage, however, probably has more to do with our "unusual"
weather. After the wettest December and January on record, we've had the
driest February, March and April on record. We've been at or above 90
degrees F for a couple of days and the 10 day projection is more of the same.
This is fully 5 weeks ahead of schedule. All of which no doubt contributes
to differing migration patterns by Lady bugs who are obviously brighter than
we are because they get the heck out of Dodge when the weather warms.