Sleeve cages assist ladybird establishment
Sleeve cages can be a very useful tool for assisting in the establishment of biological control agents, particularly ladybird beetles. We recommend that customers releasing the ladybirds we supply for aphid, mealybug and scale control use sleeve cages for at least a proportion of the beetles they introduce.
Sleeve cages help to contain the predators close to the pest, where they can immediately start to feed and lay their eggs. This ensures the establishment of a local breeding population, and has the added advantage of allowing you to return to an identifiable site to check on the progress of the population’s establishment. It should be possible to identify the next generation in their larval stages (which look very different to the adult beetles) and observe them devouring the pest.
Making a sleeve cage is easy
Sleeve cages can be very simple structures and they may take many shapes and forms. To make your own you will need a breathable lightweight material such as muslin, mosquito netting or fly screen material. You can pre-stitch the sleeve so that it can simply be slipped over the branch or entire plant, and then use a string or masking tape to close off and secure the ends of the sleeve. Having a ready-made sleeve is very handy, but don’t worry if sewing isn’t your cup of tea – it is also possible to fashion the sleeve in the field simply using staples and tape.
It can sometimes also be useful to use pieces of styrofoam to secure the sleeve in place some distance away from the caged foliage.