A Ladybug Story With a Twist

This is a story about dogs. It's also a ladybug story. But neither the dogs nor the ladybugs are behaving like they should.

One interesting ladybug story I encountered was in a science magazine. This was a while back, so I don’t recall all the details, but that was when I first learned that the ladybug is actually poisonous. They secrete a toxin that is harmful to birds, lizards, and other predators. And, of course, they are deadly to aphids and other garden pests.

For humans, however, ladybugs are generally harmless. Some people have mild allergic reactions, but still, it’s pretty rare that ladybugs feel threatened by us. In fact, they’re often incredibly helpful, since they do feast on garden pests.

Gregory Downs had a very different experience, though. In Good Dogs & Bad Ladybugs, Gregory discovers, much to his surprise, that ladybugs are eating holes in his bean plants. His first thought, however, was that his dogs were eating the plants.

He resorted to a hose and a collection of water guns to keep his pesky dogs out of the garden. And it worked! Or rather, it worked to keep the dogs out of the garden. Unfortunately, the bean plants were still getting eaten.

Could it be that the ladybugs were eating his plants? Or was there something more sinister going on in his garden? I’ll let you decide the answer to these burning questions.

Whether You Want a Ladybug Story, a Dog Story, Or Any Other Gardening Story, GreenPrints Is Here For You

This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years, and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that turn stories of gardening mishaps and mistakes into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope this story does for you as well. Enjoy!

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Good Dogs & Bad Ladybugs

By Gregory Downs

Last spring my garden was invaded by slugs and snails. We never set out poison because of our dogs, so I put coffee grounds and crushed eggshells around the plants—and that worked pretty well.

But then I started noticing holes in my green bean plants. I checked them several times a day, but didn’t see any slugs or snails, just ladybugs—and everyone knows ladybugs are good for a garden.

Believe it or not, I started thinking it was the dogs. After all, the garden was the first place they’d head whenever I let them out. All the neighbors know their names from my yelling, “Buster! Rex! Max! Get out of the garden!”

I bought squirt guns and set them around the garden, and set the hose out so whenever the dogs ran to the garden I could spray them good. They began staying out of the garden, but I was still getting holes in my bean plants. I was losing my crop!

I went to the nursery to ask how to keep dogs out of a garden, but instead the clerk said, “Sounds to me like you have beetles.”

“No, no, no,” I said. “I’ve got ladybugs, but no beetles.”

“Are these ladybugs red or yellow-orange?” the clerk asked.

“Kind of orangish,” I admitted. “But they have spots.”

“Yep, those are Mexican bean beetles. They’ll wipe out a bean crop in very short order. Pick them off and drop them in a container of soapy water.”

My face went as red as a real ladybug—and I went home and did as he said. And, yep, it worked. Oh, well. The grandkids now have plenty of squirt guns to play with.

And the dogs? They won’t go anywhere near the garden.

By Gregory Downs, published originally in 2016, in GreenPrints Issue #106. Illustrated by Marilynne Roach

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What kind of embarrassing garden mistakes have you made? Any particularly funny ones you’d like to share in the comments?


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