Ladybugs, also known as lady beetles are considered eco-green bugs and are regarded as one of the friendliest bugs which help pave the way for a large number of crops to be produced.
Ladybugs are seen as an alternative to chemicals and fertilizers. However, before you can begin a ladybug farm, you must know the best kind of ladybugs to rear. According to experts, the Hippodamia convergens kind of ladybug is the best for farms and the easiest way to recognize them is through the white dashes on their backs.
This kind of ladybug can help take care of aphids – one of the most annoying farm pests. There are however 300 species of ladybugs in North America alone and so you might need to conduct more research on which species to rear that will be most profitable to your business.
Steps to Starting a Ladybug Farming Business
1. Understand the Industry
Biological control has always been used to manage pests as against the modern use of pesticides. The first major success that was recorded featured the use of exotic pests collected from the area of origin of the pests and used against the enemy species.
Over more than a century, there have been more than 5,000 introductions of nearly 2,000 control agents that are non-native in nature and have been used in nearly 200 countries with few environmental problems.
According to current studies, biological control is therefore a key component of a systems approach in order to not only counter pests that were insecticide resistant but also to enable the withdrawal of chemicals as well as minimize the usage of pesticides.
Ladybugs are usually cultivated by farmers not as an end product but usually as a means to ward off pests from their crops. Ladybugs are regarded as carnivores as they primarily feed on sap-sucking insects such as cochineal aphids and other related crop pests.
Ladybugs are mostly used by organic farmers who pay insect farmers money to cultivate these ladybugs in large quantities so that they can be released into their fields to help fight pests. About 72,000 ladybugs are usually needed to help take care of pests on one acre of land. This industry is under the biological pest control industry and is one that generates an average of $3 billion per annum.
Large-scale agriculture is facing serious challenges especially as farmers are having to contend with climate change which is causing crop yields to shrink, thereby leading to lower profit margins, which is why efforts are being made to find better alternatives and the reason why scientists at the united states Department of Agriculture (USDA) are making more efforts to learn more about ladybugs and their feeding patterns.
The reason why more research is being conducted is because of the need to use these ladybugs as bio-control agents. The research found that when female ladybugs consume sugar, they are not only able to survive but also produce more eggs.
Greenhouses usually provide an environment for plants and pests and biologically controlled agents such as ladybugs in a way that differs clearly from that of the outdoor habitat. Even though crops that are planted in greenhouses usually look to have no pests, pests usually show up and due to the enclosure, there are no ladybugs to eradicate or control these pests.
When this happens, the greenhouse farmer has to release ladybugs into the greenhouse in order to not only control the pests but also eliminate the need for chemical pesticides.
Ladybugs are one of the most active predators with effective economic importance that search from dusk to dawn for food. Knowing where to source preconditioned ladybugs is likely to prevent them from being hauled around the country before they can get to their destination.
This kind of long trip is usually bad for the ladybugs as it robs them of their vigor, denies them their reproduction and aphid eating capabilities; and so when they get to their destination they have to be put in the right condition so that they can warm up and become active before being released.
The start of the 21st century has seen the need for there to be more effective biological control especially as the problem of pest resistance seems to be a growing one. Pesticides are also being withdrawn especially on environmental grounds without there being an alternative replacement that is suitable.
Also, in most countries, there has been uncertainty over how durable and how publicly acceptable pest-resistant crops that are genetically modified are. Therefore, the contribution of biological control to sustainable agriculture and an increase in biodiversity is being reviewed on a global scale.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
The demographic and psychographic composition of those who require ladybugs is not restricted to just commercial farmers, but it cuts across to growers, greenhouse farmers, small-time gardeners, researchers, and scientists. Therefore, if you are looking to define the demographics for your ladybug farm, you should strive to make it as all-encompassing as possible.
Before starting a ladybug farm, it is essential that you are able to identify the major characteristics of ladybugs and not just one species of ladybug. Ladybugs have oval bodies and can have colors ranging from bright red, and yellow to orange.
Also, depending on the species, the black spots that are usually on the wing covers can vary in size as well as in number. While the larvae might not be so easy to recognize, try using major features such as six legs and a blue-black color with orange spots on it.
Recognizing the larvae is very important as this will prevent you from crushing them or spraying them with insecticide. In starting your ladybug farm, you can either start it in a local nursery or outdoors. Doing it in either of these ways will help get the population of your ladybug established.
However, ensure that your decision is hinged on thorough research – as ladybugs that have been reared indoors do not always survive when they are being released outdoors – so that you do not end up wasting resources by rearing ladybugs that will eventually die; ensure that you buy ladybugs that were reared outside only.
To enable the ladybugs to stick better to the plants, water the garden in the afternoon or early evening as this will give them better hydration.
When getting the wild ladybugs – those that were collected outdoors – you should know that at least 20 percent of them will come infected with parasites and so you must find out from the seller if the ladybugs have been pre-conditioned so that you end up spending your money for nothing.
And so while it is important that you know the conditions of the ladybugs you intend to buy, it also falls on you the farmer to pre-condition them before releasing them on your farm.
Pre-conditioning helps to weed out ladybugs that have parasites; it also helps to keep the ladybug from flying away when released. When pre-conditioning, you surround the ladybugs with a tent-like structure and then ensure that they are well fed.
Farming ladybugs is not an easy venture as you will need to get them to stay where you want them to be and this can be quite challenging as some will fly away no matter how careful you are in trying to keep them all. However, you can get your ladybugs to stay in the ideal position you want them to at night because they are rarely likely to fly at night.
Also, ensure that their environment is the most convenient as ladybugs like damp soil. Aside from damp soil, you should also ensure that you have flowering plants in the farm where you intend to raise them as ladybugs love pollen and nectar.
3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On
A niche is an area or a segmented part of the industry that entrepreneurs go into in order that they might not only generate more revenue but they might also stand out from similar competitors in the same field. In almost every business that exists, there are niches that an entrepreneur going into can explore in order to stand out from others in the same field.
However, the ladybug business isn’t the kind that allows for any sort of niche and so in starting this kind of business, you should be prepared to offer the basic services that are expected and also will have to compete against others offering the same services as well. Therefore, the only niche areas that can be said to be available for those looking to start a ladybug farm are;
- Ladybug Farming
- Edible Bug Farming
- Insect Farming
The Level of Competition in the Ladybug Farm Industry
The level of competition that exists in the ladybug farm industry is not as intense as some other kinds of businesses; especially as you can basically run your ladybug farm from anywhere without having to be physically close or have to meet with your clients.
This, therefore, means that you can operate your farm from any part of the world and still compete effectively in the industry.
However, because this kind of business is not limited to just a particular location, the level of competition is more intense as you will be competing against ladybug farmers from all over the United States and even globally as well. This is because the ladybugs when ordered by customers can be mailed to them.
What customers are on the lookout for are ladybugs that have been thoroughly pre-conditioned. It is however worthy to note that the ladybug farm industry is one that is highly unregulated and not considered as a commercial industry of note.
If you are therefore looking to start ladybug farming for commercial purposes, you have to be prepared to engage in a lot of groundwork.
4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry
No matter how unregulated the ladybug farming industry is, there are still farms that are well known for rearing them for commercial purposes.
These arms have become popular due to a number of reasons and as one who intends to start a ladybug farm, it is best you study the successful brands and the tactics they have used in order to be able to stand out. Below, therefore, are some of the well-known ladybug farms in the United States of America;
- Freedom Gardens
- Insect Lore
- Beneficial Insectary
Most of the species of ladybugs are predators which are considered as beneficial for use in farms and gardens especially as they eat pests such as the Acarinas and the Homoptera. Ladybugs contribute to regulating the population of the prey in whatever garden or farm they are in.
And so when the ladybugs regulate a high level of pests, people usually benefit especially the farmers and gardeners who will benefit at no cost to them because the pest problems either no longer exist or are negligible.
If gardeners or farmers however mistake the larvae of the ladybugs for pests and either crush them or spray chemicals on them, this then leads to increased problems from the real pests. This is why experienced growers and ladybug farmers are constantly looking out to inform people about the identifying characteristics of ladybugs and their larvae.
One of the ways in which ladybugs can be biologically controlled is via a manipulative biological control, where growers and farmers can simply capitalize on the ladybugs that are already present and then create conditions that are favorable to them, while also avoiding the spray of chemicals either fungicides, insecticides or herbicides that will harm them.
Another means of biological control is augmentative biological control where the numbers of ladybugs present are known, but if the ladybugs present are not enough for the task at hand, more ladybugs are bought from commercial producers in order to augment the amount already present.
The third type of biological control is the classical biological control, where a non-existing ladybug population is released in the hope that they will not only be able to establish a population but also control the pest found as well.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
When looking to start a business, one of the decisions that you have to consider is if you should start the business from scratch or if you might have to buy a franchise. You should note that whatever option you choose will come with its own pros and cons and therefore the option chosen should be one that clearly identifies with your corporate goals and objectives.
Buying into a franchise for your ladybug farm means having to skip all the trial and error methods that starting from scratch brings. Also, when buying a franchise, you will also be gaining mentorship and guidance on how to run your business effectively and efficiently.
Starting your ladybug farm from scratch is not totally a bad idea and shouldn’t terrify you. You can start with a few ladybugs and then after trying several methods on them and finding what works best, you can now get a large amount to work with commercially.
You shouldn’t be afraid of starting from scratch as this is a business that requires little or no capital and so trying to gain insights into ladybug farming with many trial and error methods won’t be so bad. Also, you will need to understand what it means to run a business as you will need to run administrative duties as well.
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
Every industry no matter how new and unregulated it may be has a number of threats and challenges that it faces and the ladybug business is no different. Therefore when looking to start this sort of business, you should be prepared for the threats and challenges that you are likely to encounter and look for ways to effectively deal with them.
It is worthy noting that some of these threats and challenges cannot be handled such as losing your ladybugs when you release them.
Some of the challenges and threats that you are therefore likely to face when starting your ladybug farm include; properly pre-conditioning your ladybugs, dealing with intense competition from existing and new ladybug farmers, educating the public on the benefits of ladybugs, and also sourcing for buyers for your adult ladybugs.
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
When looking to start a farm for profit in the United States, there are three legal entities that are available to you and they are sole proprietorship, partnership, and limited liability company (LLC). If you are running a farm that is non-profit in nature, then you can choose a nonprofit corporation for your farm.
If you are confused about what legal entity to choose for your ladybug farm, you can get advice from other ladybug or insect farmers, visit your city council for advice or engage the services of a lawyer to help you in choosing the right entity that will enable you to run your ladybug farm efficiently.
A sole proprietorship is one of the most common legal entities used by entrepreneurs in the United States and this is due to the fact that it is one of the easiest legal entities to form with an easy ownership structure too. If you are running your ladybug farm alone, then you can start with this kind of legal entity as you will not need to register with the state or file any special papers before you can set it up.
If you intend to run the business however in a name that is not ours, then it is necessary that you file a Doing Business As (DBA) with your town hall before starting your business. If you however feel that your business is one that has a high risk of liability, then choosing this legal entity is not right for you.
If you are starting your ladybug farm with someone else, then it is necessary that you form a partnership. Ensure that you enter into an agreement that details your partnership arrangement. In a partnership, each partner usually pays their own share of the business income on his or her own personal tax returns.
Also, each of the partners can be held liable for his or her amount of business obligations. It is often advised to run a limited liability partnership (LLP) instead of a general partnership.
The LLC is the kind of legal entity that limits the liability that the owners are exposed to and this is due to the fact that the law regards the LLC as an entity that is separate from the owners. However, one benefit of the LLC is that profits and losses are usually passed through to the owners, who then report these on their personal tax returns.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below
When looking to start a business of whatever nature, one of the first things that must be done is getting a suitable name for your business.
The business name you choose should be one that is not only memorable, unique, and easily pronounceable; it must also be one that indicates the industry that you are in. Below are some catchy business name ideas that are suitable for your ladybug farm;
- Organic Bugs Farm
- Farmers’ Insects
- Ladybug Farmers
9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
When operating any business of whatever nature, it is important that you get insurance policies as they help protect you from certain occurrences that could happen during the course of starting or running your business. Set aside a budget for your insurance and get an insurance agent or broker to tell you what insurance policies will be most appropriate for your business.
Below are some of the basic insurance policies that you may need to purchase when looking to start your ladybug farm in the United States;
- General Liability Insurance
- Commercial Property Insurance
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance
- Stock and Business Interruption Insurance
- Health insurance
- Overhead Expense Insurance
- Employment Practices Liability Insurance
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
Starting a ladybug farm involves raising ladybugs commercially to help organic farmers fight pests from their farms. This is therefore not the sort of business that requires any sort of intellectual protection. However, if you aren’t averse to protecting your company name, logo, or several other materials, then you can apply for intellectual property protection for them.
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
The ladybug farm industry is not one that is highly regulated like other kinds of industry and as such in starting this kind of business; you do not need to worry about getting any sort of professional certification.
All that is required is for you to have a thorough knowledge of ladybugs and how to raise and properly release them. This doesn’t mean that you cannot take up professional courses in certain areas such as management, accounting, marketing, or agriculture.
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
Whatever business you are looking to start in the United States, you will need to have legal documentation in place so that you do not run into any sort of trouble with the legal authorities. The fact that this is not a regulated industry like others does not mean that you should run your business illegally.
If you aren’t sure of what legal documents you would require for your ladybug farm, you might go online to check or get in touch with a lawyer to help you out, especially as to what pertains to the state you intend to operate in. The list of the legal documents that you would require in order to be able to run your ladybug farm includes;
- Certificate of Incorporation
- Operating Agreement for LLCs
- Business Certificate
- Business Plan
- Business License
- Insurance Policies
- Employment Agreement
- Seller’s Tax Permit
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Federal Tax Identification Number
13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
The ladybug farm business might not be one that requires intensive capital to start up but that doesn’t mean that you will not require money to run the farm till you start generating profit especially if you are going to be employing people to help you out.
Below are some of the ways you can use in financing your ladybug farm;
- Using personal savings as start-up capital
- Sourcing for soft loans from family members and friends
- Getting a business partner and raising the startup capital with them
14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
Getting the right location with which to raise your ladybugs before releasing them is very important as not having the right location can make you lose them to death or have them fly off when you eventually release them. If you are going to be setting up an open-type enclosure, then you will require some form of space in which to build this enclosure especially if you are going to be running the business from home.
If you however intend to run the business on a large scale and are looking to buy a small land for use, then ensure that the enclosure that you build for your ladybugs is according to standard so that you do not end up losing your ladybugs. Ensure that the temperature is right for your ladybugs as they will not survive in a temperature that is lower or higher than a certain degree.
Ensure that the enclosure is spacious enough for them to fly around in as well. In choosing a location, ensure that you are not too far from your target market, especially those that will want to visit the farm in order to get the ladybugs themselves.
15. Get the Necessary Equipment for Your Technical Needs
The ladybug is very valuable and this is due to the fact that one adult ladybug can consume as much as 5,000 aphids during its entire lifetime.
Ladybugs are voracious eaters and do not only feed on all the various kinds of aphids but on thrips, and Colorado potato beetle larvae as well. The larvae of the ladybug can also consume pests as well as they are likely to consume as many as 50 aphids in a day.
Ladybugs usually lay an average of 50 eggs per day and in good conditions have been known to lay as many as 1,500 eggs. The eggs are usually laid on the bottom side of the leaves of the plant and hatches between 2 to 5 days to live for 3 weeks.
At the end of 3 weeks, they pupate and then take 4 days to become adults. Ladybugs prefer an ideal temperature that is between 62 and 80 degrees.
If the temperature is lower, it can slow down the ladybug and not make it fly as it should. There are certain equipment and tools that you will need in order to be able to start and run your ladybug farm efficiently and they are a garden hose, nozzles, attachments, flowering plants as well as ladybugs themselves.
Because you are running the ladybug farm for business, it is also essential that you purchase and possess office supplies and tools so that you can run the business efficiently by reaching your customers and allowing them to reach out to you as well. The office equipment you will need is a phone, computer, printer, software, and internet broadband connection.
16. Hire Employees to Cover your Manpower Needs
Even though the ladybug farm is one that can be run itself; if your intention is to run it on a commercial scale, you must engage the services of those who will help you run the business effectively. The employees you should get for your ladybug farm business are those that are knowledgeable about ladybugs and have the necessary skills to help your farm run smoothly.
Regardless of how much experience your intended employees might have, it is essential that you give the necessary training so that you will be able to achieve your goals and objectives more easily. Some of those you will need to hire are; admin and human resource managers, marketing and sales executives, cleaner, driver, ladybug growers as well as a front desk officer.
From the above analysis, it is evident that you will need at least 7 key individuals to help run your ladybug farm efficiently.
The Service Delivery Process of a Ladybug Farm
In rearing your ladybugs commercially, you should first construct an open-type setup, where you will then make an enclosure that will ensure that the ladybugs and larvae are kept inside the set-up. This means that your enclosure should have nets with holes that will not allow a ladybug or the larvae to pass through.
It is however necessary that the enclosure is large enough for the adult ladybugs to fly around in, as their ability to fly around in the enclosure will be of utmost benefit to you. It is important that you have a means of feeding them and you can use plenty of sheets of waterproofed paper that have smears of wheat hanging from it.
Some ladybug farmers have raised their ladybugs on Angoumois grain moth eggs. Ensure that your feeding method is tested on a few before deciding to go into using it on a large number of ladybugs or their larvae. Aside from feeding, ensure that they are able to drink as well and to this effect, hang wet cotton balls in selected areas for the adults as well as the larvae.
Ladybugs usually become dormant at low temperatures and may often appear dead when the temperature is low, and they only begin to get active once they have warmed up. If the ladybugs have long been dormant, it is best to sprinkle water on them gently before releasing them and if you have had them in storage for a long period, it is best that you feed them before releasing them as well.
17. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies
Marketing is one of the ways by which you can suitably generate revenue that will grow and sustain your business and is, therefore, one of the most serious aspects in start-ups as well as in businesses that have already been in existence.
Once you can get your marketing strategies right, you will have fewer problems in generating the needed revenue for your business and also increasing awareness of your business. With marketing, you cannot only penetrate the market and have a fair share for yourself; you can as well also favorably compete against your competitors and even have leverage over them.
Once you are fully able to understand the market you are going into, it will not be hard for you to create strategies that will have a huge impact on the business. Ensure that you outline your overall corporate strategies as this will help guide whatever marketing strategies you are looking to create.
While creating marketing strategies is very important, monitoring and reviewing them is equally as important because, in the short or long run, not all strategies will be very effective for your business. Some of the marketing ideas and strategies that you can use to generate revenue for your ladybug business include;
- Ensure that you advertise your business on popular forums and blogs
- Distribute handbills and fliers in strategic locations in order to create awareness for your business
- Engage marketers to help you physically market your business to prospective clients that are either online or offline
- Use your social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to actively advertise your business
- Install Flexi banners in strategic locations in order to increase awareness for your ladybug farm
- Place adverts in local newspapers and farmers’ magazines as well as on local radio and television stations about your ladybug farm
18. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
When starting whatever business, it is necessary that you have in place strategies that will boost the awareness of your brand and create a corporate identity for your business except your intention is to run a business that no one knows about.
Whenever you boost awareness for your brand, it allows your business to be easily identified, stand out, and then compete favorably against your competitors.
The importance of publicity for your business cannot be overstated and this is why businesses that have already been established or are successful in their own right do not mind spending a fortune every month or year to boost the awareness of their brands.
One thing with boosting the awareness for your business is that along with the increased awareness comes revenue generation as well.
It is however necessary that you take your time to find out what strategies will be best in boosting the awareness of your business and this is so that you do not end up wasting time and resources using strategies that will not work for your business.
The internet has made it easy for entrepreneurs to boost awareness of their business whilst spending as little as possible so you might need to explore how to effectively use this means in order to not only promote but generate revenue for your business.
Some of the ways by which you can boost awareness for your brand whilst also creating a corporate identity for your business include;
- Distributing handbills and fliers in strategic locations such as farmer’s markets and associations in order to generate awareness for your business
- Creating a website and promoting the website in search engines
- Sending a press release to your local newspaper in order to boost awareness for your ladybug farm
- Creating attractive signage outside your farm to increase awareness
- Make use of your social media platforms to boost awareness for your ladybug farm
- Going on blogs and forums to increase awareness for your ladybug farm.