Four thousand ladybugs arrived all the way from Ohio to my home in central Wisconsin today. They came Priority Mail. A very concerned postman delivered them – the box was labeled “Live Ladybugs,” and it was a bit dented. He was worried the ladybugs had been squashed; having never been responsible for delivering live ladybugs before, he wasn’t sure quite what to expect. He also wondered why anyone would order 4,000 ladybugs from the Internet. “To eat the thousands of aphids infesting my cherry tree,” I explained.
I had waited expectantly all week, and they finally arrived. They were shipped in a mesh bag, four thousand ladybugs cuddled together. A small cold pack had been taped to the box next to the mesh bag, keeping the ladybugs’ body temperature low, so they would make their long journey in a calm, sleepy state.
The sheet that came along with the shipment instructed me to keep the critters in the refrigerator, until it was time to release them. At that time, I was to spray a sweet liquid nectar on the cherry tree leaves to attract the awakening ladybugs, who were sure to be very hungry.
We followed the instructions to the letter, carefully squirting the trees with the sweet nectar, gingerly opening up the mesh bag, and then coaxing the wobbly visitors toward their first aphid feast. They stumbled, stretched their wings, and settled in.
Ladybugs, of which there are more than 150 species in the United States (LadybugLady), love aphids, mites, and mealy bugs, among other tasty morsels that pester fruit and vegetable gardens. They are considered harbingers of good luck the world over. In Greece, they are called Paschalitsa because they are found abundantly around Easter time. In Turkish, they are called Uğur böceği, insects of fortune. In Catalan they are called Marieta, little Mary, after the Virgin.
I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and go check on my Paschalitsas. I hope they will be having a hearty breakfast of aphids, followed by a hearty lunch and dinner, with a few Hobbit-ish elevensies thrown in. And perhaps after all that feasting, late in August, I will be able to pick the fruit from my aphid-free sour cherry tree, and share with you my Yiayia’s recipe for Visino, one of Greece’s most favored sweets – a sour cherry preserve.