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Globe 100 | True Green

Ladybug, fly away

By Erin Ailworth
Globe Staff / May 18, 2010

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The lights blinked off moments before the predators arrived, ravenous as always.

Five humans faced 1,500 hungry Hippodamia convergens inside the darkened halls of biotech firm Genzyme Corp. Luckily, horticulturist joAnne Russavage pointed out, convergent lady beetles — ladybugs — don’t eat humans. They prefer plant pests such as aphids.

That’s why the ladybugs were at Genzyme’s Cambridge headquarters, according to facilities manager Steve Moran. The drug maker releases beetles every few weeks, in place of pesticides, to keep the building’s 18 indoor gardens healthy.

“It works; it’s all natural,’’ Moran explained. The structure he oversees holds the US Green Building Council’s highest rating.

On that night, Moran worked with Russavage and Patrick Tavares of supplier Cityscapes Plant Care to spread the critters among the hoyas and trinettes in Genzyme gardens.

Tavares tapped the beetles from a cloth bag. Russavage and Moran coaxed runaway bugs back onto plants. The trio worked in the dark, to keep beetles from flying to the nearest light source.

“Come on sweetie pie, come on sweetie pie,’’ Russavage murmured, as the beetles headed for the gardens’ glossy wooden borders — a bright spot in the shadows. “Look — there’s all kinds of food down there, a snack.’’

All night and into the day, Moran and Russavage said, the beetles would eat, keeping the gardens pest-free.

“Lady beetles, they’re kind of like butterflies,’’ Russavage explained. “Happy bugs that people don’t get too freaked out about.’’