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Where are the ladybugs? (2004) Back to stories index

During the previous newyear holidays I went back to my home town, Klong Had district of Sakaeo province in the eastern Thailand, to visit my parents. My parents are corn farmers. We have been growing corn for more than 20 years since we moved here from Petchabun in 1980. I like the weather of Sakaeo, which still maintains the three distinctive seasons; the winter, the summer and the rainy season.

In Bangkok where I finished my Bachelor's degree I do not see these three features of the tropics very clearly. The temperatures of December during day time could be as hot as ever. We have a joke that now we get only two, namely rain and no-rain. The weather is guaranteed warm and hot all year round with a thin exception of a few cool days near the year-end.

A ladybug But changes have began to arrive in my province 300 km away from the metropolitan Bangkok. I noticed for the first time that I missed something. I did not see ladybugs. Ladybugs, or lady bugs or lady birds or ladybirds or lady beetles as people call it differently, are in fact love bugs of people around the world. I remember that, as a child, I loved collecting the ladybugs which entered our home. I liked to have them at home, loved to be with them. I liked the colors and spots on their dome shaped little bodies. I met them almost everywhere; under the trees, in the bushes and leaves, in the corn field.

Apart from the fact that I loved them very much, there were no other occasions associated to the ladybugs in my life. I did not study about them at the schools in Sakaeo and in the university in Bangkok I attended. I did not know whether they were of any use for our life and the world except that they were beautiful and harmless.

I asked my father where they were gone. He replied, 'Insecticides and pesticides killed them.' I was muted. I now had many questions, but my father would not answer.

Back in my Bangkok's apartment I started to search the Internet for information about the lady beetles. According to the Ohio University and IPM Thailand web sites, ladybugs are the most commonly known beneficial insects in the world. Both adults and larvae, are known as predators of aphids, but they also eat many other pests such as soft-scale insects, mealybugs, spider mites, other mites, whiteflies, small insects, insect eggs and so on. One larva will eat about 400 medium-size aphids during its development to the pupal stage. An adult will eat about 300 medium-size aphids before it lays eggs. About three to ten aphids are eaten for each egg the beetle lays. More than 5,000 aphids may be eaten by a single adult in its lifetime. There may be five to six generations of ladybugs per year.

In many places of the world ladybugs are used to protect the plants from insects and pests. Instead of using chemicals that damage our life and the environment, ladybugs are the natural alternatives to guard our plants including corn. Ofcourse the use of lady beetles to ward off the insects and pests is not easily done as spraying of chemicals. However we should start to think carefully to create a world not just for one generation but for all.

In Sakaeo, in my town, ladybugs have largely been gone. They have been killed by our careless use of chemicals. Now that we do not have these nature-given best friends. Are we to continue using the chemicals to kill the pests to protect our plants, at the same time gradually kill our own nature?

Lady Sakaeo

(Note: the same story was published in in Feb 2004.)

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