Suffolk County Girl Scouts helped release 100,000 ladybugs into Pinelawn Memorial Park and Arboretum's flowering gardens, botanicals and plants to help protect its plant life, a safer option than using pesticides. Newsday's Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman/Raychel Brightman

The ladybird beetle is a deadly predator to aphids and other garden pests, but to 8-year-old Grace Bulanowski of East Northport it just tickles a bit.

The oval-shaped insect, more commonly known as a ladybug, is so good at destroying creepy crawly nuisances that each one can devour 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.

That’s why Grace, a Girl Scout Junior with Troop 2399 of East Northport, and about 60 other Suffolk County Girl Scouts helped spread 100,000 ladybugs across the Pinelawn Memorial Park and Arboretum grounds in Pinelawn on Sunday.

"They kind of hang on," Grace said as the insect crawled across her hand. "Then you kind of shake them off on the bush."

The 500-acre cemetery and garden routinely hosts free public education events, including four previous ladybug releases beginning in 2018. The events almost always reach maximum capacity soon after they are announced, said Kristyn Hovanec, Pinelawn’s marketing manager.

Using a natural form of pest control like beneficial insects allows Pinelawn to avoid using commercial pesticides, said Pinelawn grounds supervisor Fred Hoffman.

"They prevent us from having to spray the garden with any kind of chemical," Hoffman told the Scouts who gathered at a bed of hydrangeas, hostas and catmint to release the bugs. "We just have the ladybugs run around and eat the aphids."

Mazarine Crescenzo, 4, right, and her sister Bianca, 6, release...

Mazarine Crescenzo, 4, right, and her sister Bianca, 6, release ladybugs at Pinelawn Memorial Park and Arboretum which invited Girl Scouts to its annual release event Sunday. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Aphids are small, usually green insects that can damage plants by sucking the sap out of stems and leaves, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

The Scouts, who ranged from 5 to 14 years old, had questions, including one curious girl who asked why it looked like some ladybugs were giving each other piggyback rides. Another wanted to know where Pinelawn got so many ladybugs.

Hoffman told them that while Pinelawn typically orders ladybugs directly from laboratories, West Coast wildfires this year have led to shortages. Instead, a limited number of insects were ordered from an Amazon vendor, he said.

"We got as many as we could," Hoffman said.

The Scouts took in some more ladybug facts including descriptions of its life cycle stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult ladybug) and how its dots can mimic eyes to fend off predators. And while some think those spots can tell a ladybug’s age, Hoffman told the group that is not true.

"That was a myth," said 6-year-old Victoria Galli of Daisy Troop 32, which is affiliated with South Huntington School District.

The Scouts could use what they learned toward patches like the Brownie Bugs Badge or the Junior Incredible Insect Badge, leaders said.

"Girls Scouts are all about community service and the environment and this is the perfect way to get involved," said Diane Friedel of East Northport, Grace’s mom and troop leader.

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