In Photos: 144,000 Ladybugs Released Into the Mall of America on Earth Day

A triptych of images: on the left, a close-up of a vibrant ladybug on a green leaf; in the center, a young girl in a scout uniform pouring a drink; on the right, a white cup with several ladybugs inside.

As part of its Earth Day celebrations, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, released 144,000 ladybugs into the mall to help keep its 30,000 live plants and trees healthy and happy. Conservation photographer and friend of PetaPixel Devon Matthews was on hand to document the event.

“The event was great, it brought out people from every walk of life and a variety of ages,” Matthews tells PetaPixel.

A group of excited children, some wearing scout uniforms, gather around a table with cups as a smiling woman assists them during an outdoor event.

A young girl wearing a red headband and girl scouts vest smiles while holding a red cup at an outdoor event, with other people and a table with cups in the background.

Matthews arrived alongside other visitors around 6 AM today to document the event for his own photojournalism reasons. Matthews has been honing his photojournalism craft in recent years, including documenting the incredible annual tarantula migration in Colorado twice, most recently with his mentor, professional wildlife photographer Kristi Odom. He also went to Florida last year to show how Cape Coral residents are trying to help protect burrowing owls.

Like those stories, Matthews’ journey to the Mall of America this morning shows the intersection of humans and nature and how people interact with animals.

A person wearing a blue glove sprinkles cloves into a red cup adorned with black polka dots, standing at an outdoor table with more cups and cloves visible.

A hand tipping a cup with ladybugs onto a large green leaf, scattering the insects close-up in a lush, leafy environment.

“Mainly because I’ve lived in Minnesota my whole life and used to frequent the mall often — during my younger years — and never knew they intentionally released ladybugs inside the mall,” Matthews explains.

“Being it was the first time they opened this process up to the public, I thought it would be [fun] to document the event and the perfect way to kick off Earth Day.”

Two men wearing gloves work at a table, handling small objects and bags amidst a colorful amusement park setting, with garden-like decorations and overhead structures.

A bright red ladybug with black spots crawls along the tip of a vibrant green leaf against a soft-focused green background.

144,000 ladybugs are a lot to release into the mall all at once, so they needed help. Matthews says that local residents and Girl Scouts participated in the event, helping spread the critters to the different plants inside the mall’s Nickelodeon Universe area.

According to Valley News Live, hundreds of people who signed up to participate in the event.

Although some people were at the Mall of America this morning to help release the ladybugs, now that they are enjoying their new life eating pests inside the mall, visitors should observe them from a safe distance. The mall recommends that people “refrain from handling them.”

Bright lego store entrance displaying large lego logo with models of animals like a tiger and bear. foreground has a sign requesting to observe ladybugs from afar for a scavenger hunt.

While the Mall of America has released ladybugs into the mall each spring for more than 30 years, the 144,000 ladybugs are the most that have ever been distributed at once. The ladybugs help the mall avoid the use of harmful chemicals, which is vital considering that many of the plants are within reach of mall visitors, including pineapple plants and orange trees.

A ladybug at the edge of a vibrant green leaf, with a soft-focus green background, highlighting the bright red and black pattern of the ladybug.

To see more from Devon Matthews, visit his website and follow him on Instagram. The Minnesota native is making a name for himself in the conservation world.

Image credits: Devon Matthews