Kate Bradley kept some unusual items stocked in her fridge: thousands of live ladybugs.
These tiny critters flew to the center of attention on Monday as Bradley and a crowd of Westville neighbors released the ladybugs at a party outside the Mitchell Branch Library.
Over 50 residents attended the annual event, with many bringing their children along to help release the pest-eating ladybugs into the library’s gardens.
The event is just one in a series of initiatives thought up by Bradley, who works year-round to maintain the greens around the library area.
“The ladybugs are beneficial insects. They eat pests,” Bradley said. “Not only that, the kids like them and they are hard shelled, which means the kids can’t accidentally hurt them. It’s a great match.”
Bradley is traditionally in charge of acquiring the ladybugs. This year marks the first time she purchased the live ladybugs online. The insects came in small bags that could be stored for up to two weeks in the freezer, and held thousands of ladybugs each.
At the event, Bradley and other community members cut small holes in the bags, using spoons to scoop out a multitude of ladybugs into the hands of small children, who would then let the ladybugs fly into the gardens. According to Bradley, the ladybugs serve as “organic pesticides,” eating common pests such as aphids that can easily ruin plants.
“We are the only library that looks like this,” library Branch Manager Sharon Lovett-Graff said. “Every season, [Bradley and other neighborhood volunteers] take care of everything for us.”
Bradley, alongside her husband Bob Bradley, is a member of Blockwatch 303. The group first began tending to gardens at the local intersection of Chapel Street and Central Avenue, Bradley said, and later expanded its work to the nearby library.
Her work varies throughout the year as the seasons change. In the early spring, for example, Bradley and the group focus on edging the gardens and planting in early barrows.
“Oh, I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Bradley said, chuckling. “But I get help. Different people volunteer at different times.”
She highlighted the release party as a gratifying moment: she gets to see the neighborhood community appreciating and contributing to her yearlong labor.
For library worker Lucy Cochran, the party has become a central part of her experience with the New Haven Free Public Library system. Sitting at a nearby table distributing flyers for their child summer reading program, Cochran noted how the event often helps bring more children to the library.
Monday’s event also featured a marine touch tank, a crafts and arts table, and a drumming circle.