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Thousands of ladybugs are getting turned loose at the Mall

Mall of America marks Earth Day with a pest control party, starring ladybugs.

It's time for the annual pest control blitz at Mall of America. So before they open the doors to the public on Thursday, they'll let in about 20 kids ... along with 75,000 ladybugs.

That's how they've been doing it since the Bloomington mall opened nearly 25 years ago, the MOA blog explained this week. Ladybugs released right around Earth Day protect the mall's 30,000 or so plants by eating the smaller bugs – especially aphids – that could be a threat to the greenery.

The children recruited to release the ladybugs between 7:30 and 9 a.m. Thursday are from groups including Fraser Minnesota, which provides services to kids with autism or other special needs.

The Star Tribune says kids from the Girl Scouts and from Children's Hospital of Minneapolis will also be helping.

Ladybugs chow down on aphids

The University of Minnesota says more than 300 kinds of aphids live in the state. And, as most gardeners know, the bugs can do a lot of damage by sucking the juice out of plants.

Thankfully, though, ladybugs can do a whole lot of damage to an aphid colony. The website Nature's Control says a single ladybug (they're also known as ladybirds) eats 5,000 aphids in a year.

But a year is as long as they live, which explains why the ladybug release is an annual ritual at the mall.

75,000 is a lot of ladybugs. Live Science notes that some shoppers have wondered if the bugs might wander into mall food courts and wind up on the forks of diners. But mall staff say experience shows the bugs are not interested in human food – focusing instead on their own meals, which are served on plants, flowers, and trees.

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