Photo: Students from Dana’s Dance Academy perform maypole dances dressed as ladybugs at Saddlehorn Park. / Photo by Ariel Graham
Tens of thousands of ladybugs took flight during the 14th Annual Ladybug Release Party hosted at Saddlehorn Park in Valley Ranch on Saturday, March 25.
Dozens of families filled the small park, many of them decked out in red and black dots of their own. Events for the kids enlivened the park, such as a scavenger hunt, craft stations, costume contests, bounce houses and a cake walk. But the main event was the ladybug release at noon. Volunteers set out hundreds of cartons filled with ladybugs around the park, then stepped back as the kids gathered around the cartons catching ladybugs in their homemade terrariums, as well as on their clothes, hair and their parents.
“What we’re doing here is releasing over 100,000 ladybugs for all the kids to capture and enjoy and take home to their gardens,” LaWanda Brannon, lifestyle director for Valley Ranch, said. “We chose such a large volume because, first of all, they’re so small, and we just wanted to make sure we’ve got enough for everyone to have a chance to enjoy them.”
In addition to all the various activities, this year’s party also welcomed a new addition. Young girls from the Academy Dancers Youth Ensemble at Dana’s Dance Academy dressed up like ladybugs and performed maypole dances throughout the day.
As Jodi West, one of the instructors from Dana’s Dance Academy watched her girls dance in the park, she stressed the importance of getting kids back in touch with nature.
“I feel that nature is such a big part of our lives,” West said. ”We’ve slowly been getting kind of away from it. I think it’s important to get the kids interested in nature more than the screen, so they can really learn about the world around them.”
The biggest benefit of having ladybugs in a garden is pest control. Nancy Payne of Habitat Landscapes, and also chairman of The Green Club in Valley Ranch, explained how ladybugs help keep tiny pests out of the garden.
“Ladybugs are the biggest carnivores in our garden,” Payne said. “They eat other insects, and their favorite insect to eat is the aphid. Ladybugs are basically free, organic insect control.”
Aphids in particular are very damaging to plants as they will suck the sap out of them and can oftentimes transmit diseases to the plants they eat. Ladybugs and their larva act as an eco-friendly solution to harmful chemicals and sprays for getting rid of these aphids.
Payne added that events such as the Ladybug Release Party are vital for teaching children the importance of how nature works, as well as providing a practical example of the food chain.
“I think everybody needs to understand ecology and the food chain,” Payne said. “When we humans interfere with the food chain, which we do by killing insects, we’re in essence killing animals that live higher on the food chain.”
Swati Ahearwal, a homemaker from Irving, agrees it is important to teach kids how to take care of not just ladybugs, but other insects and animals from an early age.
“If [children] learn at a younger age, they’ll know how to take care of nature, what plants to plant and what to put in the garden, and how to do the right thing in the future,” Ahearwal said.