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Star Nursery is giving away free ladybugs on Saturday

A swarm of ladies will paint the town red this weekend.

Star Nursery locations across the valley will give away free ladybugs on Saturday. The goal of the giveaway is to highlight ladybugs’ contribution to the environment.

They’ll come in 4- by- 6-inch pouches, each holding about 150.

“We’re giving these away in every one of our stores,” said Crystal Gwaltney, Star Nursery’s customer relations coordinator. “You could come out of your house Sunday morning and get swarmed by ladybugs. We’re blanketing the desert Southwest with them.”

The tiny, spotted insects help control pests in gardens. Releasing them can rid your beds and planters of aphids, white flies, mites and more. They also act as pollinators, moving pollen from male flowers to female.

Star Nursery gets the ladybugs from a California company that specializes in cultivating and breeding beneficial insects, according to Gwaltney. It’s also where the nursery chain orders its praying mantis egg cases and red wiggly worms, insects that also protect plants from harmful pests. Packets of ladybugs are normally sold for about $7.99, according to Gwaltney.

“We work with a grower out of California that we contract to grow things for us,” Gwaltney said. “They do something similar at their garden centers and they’ve had really great success with it. So, we wanted to replicate that here, because it’s a fun thing to get excited about for spring.”

No ladybugs are harmed in this exchange, as they’re shipped in cardboard cases in temperature- controlled trucks.

They only come 25 pouches to a case so they won’t crush each other. Little holes in the cases and mesh-textured pouches ensure the ladybugs can breathe.

Customers can expect to receive one free pouch per person on Saturday.

A few cautionary steps will ensure the ladybugs stay put once released into the garden.

“You want to release them in the evening when it’s a little bit cooler and they’re more calm,” Gwaltney said.

“When they come out, they’ll need to have a little bit of water. Most importantly, they need something to eat. So if you don’t have any pests in your garden — if you have more of a sterile environment, they’re going to fly away and find something to eat. If you have pests, then they’ll stick around.”

Contact Mia Sims at msims@reviewjournal.com. Follow @miasims___ on Twitter.

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