Last year, around this time, we were just planning our garden: planting citrus trees and succulents, and making room for plots of Sungold tomatoes. We were also hoping to address an aphid problem. One way to do so, is to encourage beneficial insects—like ladybugs and lacewings—to take care of them, rather than use pesticides. Sounded good to us!

But even more appealing, to be honest, was the chance to play in the garden with Hudson—who was, at the time, just getting really excited about dirt and worms and rolly-pollies and the like. He would surely love to release ladybugs!

Aron looked up reputable suppliers and brought home what looked like an ice-cream-pint with hundreds and hundreds of ladybugs

inside. We brought them outside around dusk, misted the plants to encourage them to stay and drink, and slowly started to release them.

Here’s what I learned: aphids or not, you can entertain a toddler for at least an hour with just a few ladybugs. And we had hundreds. Frankly, it was pretty awesome regardless of age.

Even though you know they’re harmless, there’s something a little creepy about any insect in swarms—especially on your hand (if you let them be there). We both steeled any nerves to project total confidence to our bold, budding gardener.

It reminded me: Years ago, in college, a friend and I drove up into the Berkeley Hills to hike in Tilden Park. We heard a crackling sound along the path and soon realized it was the sound of millions of ladybugs moving on the fringe. The sides of the walk were literally red with the tiny beetles. I’d never seen anything like it! Apparently, according to KQED, “Ladybugs fly in by the millions to winter in the East Bay’s Redwood Regional Park.” Here’s a video.

Our little garden experiment brought me right back.

P.S. A port-tasting party in our backyard.

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