April 30, 2013
Bug-Infested Mall? Relax, It’s A Good Thing
72,000 bugs were released Inside Mall of America, and it wasn’t an April Fools’ Day joke.
The Mall of America enthusiastically observed Earth Day last week by willingly releasing 72,000 ladybugs into its indoor shopping facility.
According to International Business Times, “The ladybugs were released in the Minneapolis mall in an effort to protect the large amounts of the mall’s greenery, which are usually plagued by aphids.”
For anyone who doesn’t know much about insects, parasitic or beneficial, here’s why they did it.
Aphids are soft, pear-shaped, and very tiny (1/16 to 3/8 inch long), and vary in color. They may be green, pink, yellowish, black, or powdery gray, and they feed on most fruit and vegetable plants, flowers, ornamentals, and shade trees. They can be found aphids throughout North America.
“The familiar round, orange spotted ladybug is just one of more than 400 species of lady beetles found in North America. Most ladybug adults and larvae feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects.”
Since lady bugs feast on aphids, and aphids feast on the interior landscapes of many malls and other buildings, “Mall of America Senior Manager of Environmental Services Lydell Newby told Kare 11 that the bugs take the place of commonly used pesticides to control pests that would otherwise eat away at the mall’s tropical plants.”
“Ladybugs are what I like to call sort of a biological defense system,” said Newby, who added that ladybugs are an awesome natural alternative to pesticides.
“You can release some ladybugs in your own garden,” he said. “And in an outside climate, once the conditions are right, they can live in your garden forever.”
It was part of a field trip for eager third grade students to be present for the release of the lady beatles.
“Before I got to hold these ladybugs, I was pretty scared of them. I overcame my fear and helped the ladybugs,” student Sheriya Wentzlaff remarked.
Concerned shoppers and criers abound took to the net to air out their concerns. Posts were made on the mall’s official Facebook page to complain about the potential of the bugs infesting the mall’s food court.
The only problem with those people and all their fussing is that they’re misinformed or ignorant to the facts. Ladybugs don’t eat human food; they eat other bugs, simple as that. Lots of folks use the Internet as a soapbox to rant about things they know nothing about. (I’m probably one of those folks, but I won’t be getting in trouble for it.)
According to an MAO spokesperson, “the bugs only live on the plants for their two-week life span and are maintained by staff.”
“We’ve been doing this for years,” the spokesperson continued. “No ladybug takeover yet. Chances are you’ve visited the mall during this short period and have never noticed them. They are completely harmless.”
As a matter of fact, the Mall of America isn’t the only place using biological control to eliminate parasitic insects; apple orchard growers in Pennsylvania have been successfully using ladybugs to protect their crop for years.
With my mother being an interior landscape designer for 20 plus years now, I know more about plants and bugs than your average bear and spent many summer hours laboring away to promote the good health of all of her plants. There are many bugs that need to be eradicated from gardens, both indoor and out, but ladybugs aren’t one of them.
They join the list with spiders, wasps, hover flies, and tachinid flies as the most beneficial insects, and usually top the list. It’s probably because they’re cute (for bugs, anyhow).
Image Credit: Photos.com