LOWER EAST SIDE — The Lower East Side just hired 140,000 new workers to fight against insect pests — a horde of ladybugs released into a neighborhood community garden to keep aphids under control.
The release Sunday, an initiative of the Critter Committee at the M'Finda Kalunga Community Garden on Delancey and Chrystie streets, brought about 50 volunteers eager to help distribute the bug through the green oasis.
Ladybugs are the first of many insects to be released this summer. The group will also unleash fireflies, praying mantis and crickets in an effort to boost the garden's insect population.
"They are friendly. They tickle. They have lots of spots," said seven-year-old Annali Doyle, who had several ladybugs crawling up her arms.
Annali was one of dozens of children at the event participating in ladybug-themed art and games, as well as the release itself. All the kids who assisted with distributing the bugs received a certificate of appreciation from the garden, which is manned by 40 volunteer gardeners.
"We were only expecting about ten people to show up," said Edward "Bud" Shalala, the head of the Critter Committee. "This is amazing."
Shalala had waited all afternoon Thursday for the shipment of bugs — about $200 worth. They came courtesy of the Department of Entomology at Cornell University, which has been working with the garden on how to organize the release.
"We were calling and tracking," said Shalala. "What if they left a note and it went back to UPS? They [the ladybugs] would have died."
Once it arrived, the shipment sat out Thursday and Friday's heatwave in Shalala's fridge before Sunday's release.