Thursday, August 5, 2010

Kid's learn about beneficial insects the fun way!

The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) has come up with a fun, hands-on way to teach local youths about the benefits of beneficial insects.

On Thursday evening, August 5, between 7:30 and 8:30 pm, volunteers -- including two 4-H groups and two Girl Scout troops -- will release 450,000 ladybugs into WSSC's Azalea Garden in an effort to rid the garden of mealy bugs.

Located at 2 Brighton Dam Road in Brookeville, WSSC’s Azalea Garden is more than 50 years old and features 20,000 bushes. In addition to being a perennial favorite with visitors, the Azalea Garden helps prevent erosion at Brighton Dam. But recently, the azalea's have been invaded by mealybugs.

Mealy bugs suck the fluids from leaves and stems, robbing plants of essential nutrients. They feed on all parts of the plant, but especially on tender new growth.

Ladybugs are known enemies of mealy bugs. WSSC decided to follow the USDA’s environmentally friendly recommendation of using lady bugs to eat the mealy bug. Chuck Shuster, Montgomery County Extension Director, helped WSSC calculate the number of ladybugs needed for the five-acre garden.

On the night of the release, volunteers will don dark clothing and use spray bottles to apply sugar water onto the azalea bushes. They will then help release the ladybugs in three separate areas. Drawn by the sugar water, the ladybugs will begin their task. Because ladybugs are attracted to light, the dark clothing won’t distract them from their main mission: to reach the bushes and the mealy bugs.

For more information, contact Kim Knox, 301-206-8100

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