POTTSBORO — Thousands of ladybugs were let loose at the Pottsboro Community Garden Thursday as part of an effort to educate the public about the important roles the insects play in maintaining a healthy garden and environment.

Despite cloudy skies and cold winds, dozens of children, most out of school for spring break, crowded around the picnic tables and planter beds of the garden at James G. Thompson park in Pottsboro for the event. The children listened as Eisenhower State Park Ranger Kate Saling read a book on the life cycle of the red and black bugs, played games with one another and assembled ladybug-themed crafts. And the big finale featured the release of roughly 3,000 lady bugs.

Dianne Connery, director of the Pottsboro Area Library, said the organic and all-natural maintenance of the community garden made for a great opportunity to talk about insects, as they play an important role in keeping plants healthy.

“Because this is a permaculture garden, all the systems work together and insects are a part of that system,” Connery said. “So we wanted to offer something to the community to get them outside and teach them about this little, but important part of nature.”

Ladybugs are smaller members of the beetle family and boast the bright body colors of red, yellow or orange. The often-spotted, six legged insects are generally considered to be ‘useful’ or ‘friendly’ because they eat agricultural pests, which feed on and damage crops.

With the spring season just around the corner, Saling said people can expect to see many more ladybugs than they did during the winter months.

“When it’s cold out you won’t find them,” Saling said. “They don’t necessarily hibernate, but they’re not very active at all in the winter. The spring and summer are really their seasons, so they should be making their appearance soon.”

Saling said ladybugs make for great ambassadors to the insect world, as their helpful habits and nonaggressive personalities can help those with a fear of bugs.

“Working with these ladybugs is a great experience that’s very hand on,” Saling said. “Some kids react to bugs with a little bit of uncertainty at first. This is a great way to get them over any fear of insects. When you introduce a bug that’s friendly toward people, it has a positive impact on how they think about them.”

Lesley Golden, who traveled all the way from Whitesboro with her five kids, said she brought her family out for the big release so her children could see that ladybugs play a valuable role in the world around them.

“I just want them to have a better appreciation for nature and to know that some bugs actually help pollinates, that some bugs help to keep others at bay,” Golden said. “Some even eat fungus off our food. Bugs do a little bit of everything and they really are important to the environment.”