The quintessential “good bug,” ladybugs (aka ladybird beetles) are the poster child of the beetle world. Everyone knows that ladybugs eat aphids and other “bad bugs” (especially scale insects) and should be welcomed in the garden.
Actually, not all ladybug species are red. Some species are orange, yellow, white, black, brown, or gray. And not all ladybug species eat aphids, although most do. Some are even agricultural pests, such as the infamous Mexican Bean Beetle. Still, most ladybugs are red, and they eat vast numbers of aphids, as well as scales, mealy bugs, leaf hoppers, mites and other soft-bodied insects and their eggs.
Mistletoe is a holiday tradition. We decorate our doorways with it, where tarrying under a spring might bring you a kiss. Unfortunately, the kind of mistletoe growing along Colorado’s Front Range isn’t so romantic. Five different species of dwarf mistletoe infest pines, spruces and firs. Given enough time, an infected tree will eventually die.
All mistletoes are flowering plants that have given up a life of self-sufficiency to become harmful parasites. Dwarf mistletoes lack leaves, so they have little ability to make their own food from sunlight. Instead of extending their roots into the soil, they have root-like structures that penetrate under the bark, where they siphon off both water and nutrients from the host tree.
The female mistletoe plant produces sticky seeds. When the seed capsules are ripe, usually in late summer, they explode, expelling their contents at speeds up to 60 mph! The seeds can travel up to 60 feet, although 30 feet is more common. Wherever the seeds hit, there they stick.