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Curious little creepers, ladybugs, or as the British call “ladybirds,” are believed to bring good luck, if you catch one.
But that’s not what makes them interesting. Rather, it’s their impact on nature, which often becomes a topic of discussion among environmentalists and entomologists. However, you need not belong to either of these fields to learn more about these colorful insects.
In fact, many of us have childhood memories of looking for ladybugs in gardens and fields, especially after a rainy day. However, if you want to know all about different ladybug species, you may need to start from scratch.
That’s why we have created an elaborate guide, discussing the 6 different types of ladybugs, in addition to other relevant details.
But before we get into all the nitty-gritty, let’s begin with the classification.
Classification of Ladybugs
- Classification of Ladybugs
- A Ladybug’s Life Cycle
- Ladybug Habitat
- Types Of Ladybugs
- Some Interesting Ladybug Facts
- The Role Of Ladybugs In Farming
- How Can Ladybugs Be Conserved?
When learning about ladybugs, it’s essential to start with the classification of these bright-hued critters. This way, you can appreciate the different varieties and their individual characteristics.
Take a look at this classification to find out more about these interesting creatures.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Class: Insecta
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Family: Coccinellidae
- Order: Coleoptera
- Genus: Hippodamia
A Ladybug’s Life Cycle
For a ladybug to complete its life cycle, it may take roughly about four weeks. And as such, there will be several generations hatching and reaching maturity during summers. At the outset, the convergens larvae are typically slender and soft-bodied with red, green, black or blue spots.
The spotted larvae usually begin feeding instantly, growing and transitioning at least four times over a month. Meanwhile, the pupal stage lasts for not more than a week. Subsequently, the mating period resumes after the hatching season.
During this stage, the larvae live off other unhatched eggs in the cluster or eggs of smaller insects. After completing four different stages of growth, the bugs attach themselves to a surface and eventually pupate.
However, for this cycle to repeat, an abundant supply of aphids is essential. Basically, with sufficient food available, the female ladybugs start reproducing a week after mating. On the contrary, when food is scarce, it may take as long as nine months for the females to lay eggs.
The females lay between 200 to 300 eggs during spring through summer. Usually, these spindle-shaped eggs are placed upright, close to large aphid nests, in batches comprising 15 to 30 larval eggs.
Lastly, hibernation is another vital stage in a ladybird’s life cycle. Generally, the insects hibernate in groups throughout winter, and they return to the same spot every year.
Ladybugs, although native to the Palearctic region, are even found in oriental and Nearctic areas. Other than their places of origin, these insects are spotted in several countries, including the US, Canada, Chile, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, and India.
Usually, ladybugs found in foreign countries are cultured and introduced to combat the infestation of pests in farmlands. While they primarily prey on aphids, the bugs in the larvae stage depend on unhatched eggs for sustenance. Thereafter, they gradually move on to aphids.
However, when there’s a shortage of aphids, the mature bugs depend on pollen, petals, honeydew, and nectar for nutrition. But then again, these are temporary food sources until the ladybirds can find enough aphids. This is mainly because aphids play a critical role in the reproduction of these beetles.
When there’s a scarcity of aphids, the mature beetles keep relocating to find other sources. On the other hand, larvae usually like to stay in one location to find food in the vicinity.
That said, since ladybugs are classified as omnivores, they are usually located on grasslands like pastures, fields, meadows, gardens, and shrubs, instead of trees. As for plant-based diets, these insects prefer dry foliage to moist vegetation.
Types Of Ladybugs
The Asian ladybird (Harmonia Axyridis)
Also known as the multicolored Asian ladybird, these insects are found in a variety of colors including orange, red and yellow. Although rare, you may find black ones as well. That said, Harmonia Axyridis, a native North America, is spotted scurrying inside houses, especially in October.
The Asian ladybirds typically feature a white part over their heads, which distinguishes them from other subspecies. Furthermore, they have an ‘M-shaped’ black marking on the white part, making them easily identifiable.
Since they are primarily seen around Halloween, these bright-hued insects are alternatively called harlequin lady beetles. During this time, they usually prefer the safety of homes for prolonged winter hibernation. So, even if you notice them around, you need not worry as they neither feed nor breed within houses.
While they are most commonly seen in North America, Asian ladybirds are now sporadically spotted across different parts of the UK. Besides, these bugs have been located in the Midlands and South East.
Coccinella Septempunctata (Seven-spotted Variant)
Seven-spotted ladybirds, also known as ‘C-7’ beetles, are commonly found species across Europe. Typically, they have bright red elytra featuring three spots on either side and an additional dot right on the center. Therefore, these 7 spots distinguish this sub-specie from other varieties.
These insects both in the larvae stage, and as they mature, live on aphids. This is why coccinella septempunctata are released in hordes in crop fields and grasslands to exterminate aphids. Long story short, these beetles are active control agents that curb the infestation of harmful pests.
Adalia Bipunctata (Two-spotted Variant)
Adalia Bipunctata is a unique member belonging to the Coccinellidae family, as unlike the previous species, they are carnivorous as well as cannibalistic. Much like their seven-spotted counterparts, these ladybirds are launched in different parts of Western Europe to counteract aphid invasions.
That said, the two-spotted ladybugs are generally used in crop fields and greenhouses to reduce and control pests. As you can already guess, these insects get their name because of its red body having two prominent black spots. Naturally, this feature alone makes them different from the rest of the species.
The Coleomegilla Maculata ladybird
Coleomegilla Maculata or the rare pink-spotted ladybird, has a medium-sized, elliptical body, which makes it immediately discernible from the rest of the clan. Although it’s usually found in different shades of pink, you may sometimes spot red ones, featuring black spots all over.
While both the adults and the larvae actively prey on aphids, these beetles also consume other pests, including mites and flies. Furthermore, they depend on insect eggs and small larvae for nutrition.
However, you’d be surprised to learn that these spritely critters are a rare breed that also intake plant pollen. In fact, much like aphids, 50% of their diet constitutes nectar and pollen.
The Thirteen-spotted Ladybird (Hippodamia Tredecimpunctata)
The thirteen-spotted ladybird, when matured, sports a dome or oval-shaped back and short shiny legs. It typically has antennas on the head and a pair of covers over the wings.
The Hippodamia Tredecimpunctata generally have a red body, but it’s not unusual to find orange ones. But the most extraordinary feature is the thirteen spots, either dark or black in color. While they form domed exoskeletons in the later stages, as larvae, they appear flat with tiny spines.
Furthermore, unlike other ladybugs that lay eggs in batches of 15 to 30, the thirteen-spotted ones lay eggs in batches ranging from 10 to 50. Also, they place the eggs on the lower surfaces of larger leaves.
Hippodamia Convergens is the common garden variety ladybug that you can generally spot in green locations. These medium-sized insects are either orange or yellow-bodied with prominent black spots. As for their feeding habit, these beetles are also voracious aphid eaters.
Some Interesting Ladybug Facts
- These bright colored insects are invertebrates, belonging to the Coccinellidae family.
- Coccinellidae translates to ‘small red sphere’.
- Entomologists are of the opinion that these insects feature an eye-popping endoskeleton to protect themselves from falling prey.
- Although they usually prey on aphids, ladybugs also derive nutrition from plants, which makes them omnivorous in nature.
- Some ladybug species display cannibalistic traits.
- The different species vary in size, with an average length (in inches) ranging between 0.3 and 0.4.
- The ladybug’s average lifespan is 2 to 3 years, but they live longer than in more habitable environments.
- These beetles secrete a smelly and toxic fluid from the leg joints, instantly making them unappetizing to predators.
- Sometimes, a ladybug, when it senses danger, plays dead.
- Farmers around the world depend on these small critters to naturally control and exterminate pests.
The Role Of Ladybugs In Farming
As already mentioned, these miniature beetles are avid eaters of aphids and other crop-destroying insects. Therefore, in case of an aphid invasion in farms, ladybugs are released in multitudes to eliminate and minimize their population.
Doing so, not only ensures crop protection but also allows farmers to avoid the use of chemical pesticides and insecticides. If you’re wondering how it all works, let’s break it down for you. Initially, the mother ladybugs lay numerous eggs, forming vast colonies near aphid nests.
As soon as they hatch, the larvae begin feeding on the aphids, thereby eliminating them. Research shows that ladybugs can individually consume nearly 5,000 aphids along with some more pests throughout their lifespan.
How Can Ladybugs Be Conserved?
A Ladybug has a vital role in keeping pests under check, and hence, dedicated effort is necessary to conserve the different species of the Coccinellidae family. The following are some of the effective measures that ensure the conservation and sustenance of ladybugs.
- Identifying the different stages of growth in the life cycle of a ladybug to ensure that none of these phases is interrupted in any manner.
- Raising awareness about their role in nature is key to long term conservation of ladybugs.
- Limiting how often and how much insecticides are used, and applying selective insecticides that do not kill or harm ladybugs.
- Supplementing green zones with plants producing pollen and nectar.
Threats To Farming
Unfortunately, not all ladybug species are good for safeguarding crops. For that matter, squash beetles and Mexican bean beetles pose a significant threat to farmlands and crop fields. The latter is infamous for destroying garden beans, beanstalks, and sometimes even soybeans. You can easily identify this ladybug variety as they have an orange body with eight dark dots on each wing cover.
Meanwhile, the squash beetles are notorious for feeding on pumpkins, squash plants, and cantaloupes. Usually, they have seven dots spread across their body. In case these pests invade farms areas, it’s best to use specially formulated pesticides that immobilize and kill them.
Difference Between Native Ladybugs And Asian Ladybirds
It’s not easy to tell an Asian ladybug from a native one at just a glance. This is primarily because the former is found in different colors ranging from light tan to vibrant red, which makes them similar to the indigenous species.
However, if you observe carefully, you will notice the white segment behind its head, with black spots forming an ‘M’. While some have dark dots on their bodies, others may not, or have light dots.
Asian Ladybird Infestations
Asian ladybirds were intentionally released in many parts of the US, including South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Washington, California, Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, to control harmful pests.
Since then, they have migrated to the rest of the US, and in many regions, they dominate the native species. While they were initially introduced to safeguard crops, the undesirable characteristics of these insects soon came to fore.
For instance, these tiny bugs creep into cracks and crannies of homes during winter. And when left unchecked, they even enter inside houses, seeking warmth and favorable conditions. Once they have access, the ladybirds fly and crawl across walls, windows, and furniture. Furthermore, they secrete an odorous liquid when threatened, leaving stains on fabrics, walls, and furniture.
Unlike the diminutive indigenous varieties, the Asian ladybirds are aggressive and sometimes even bite when land on the skin. While the bite is usually harmless, some individuals may have an allergic reaction, with symptoms including pink eye, cough, hay fever, asthma, or hives.
Allergies can also be triggered by coming in contact with these beetles and then touching eyes. Besides, some people can start to show symptoms if they’re exposed to an infestation for a considerable period.
In fact, Asian lady beetles have become a menace in vineyards as well. In this case, they often get collected while picking the grapes and interfere with the wine’s flavor.
Controlling Asian Ladybirds
If you’re worried about Asian ladybirds entering your home, the best preventive measure is to pest-proof the entire building. This way, you can completely stop their access. That said, you should start by sealing cracks and gaps around doors, windows, pipes, vents, eaves, siding, or foundation.
Furthermore, make sure that your door and window frames are perfectly in place, with the screens intact. However, if they still manage to creep in, capture them using sticky tape, or just use a vacuum cleaner. Avoid swatting or squashing the insects as then they could leave odor and stains.
Gardening enthusiasts who want to release beneficial species, ideally, should avoid buying and distributing ladybirds from commercial sellers. You never know, these commercial bugs can be the wrong variety.
While harmless species like Adalia Bipuntata, Hippodamia Convergens, and Coleomegilla Maculata, are also sold, they may have been cultured in the wild using illegal methods. Therefore, it’s better to go the organic way, practicing natural gardening methods that encourage indigenous ladybug varieties to visit your green pad.
Plants That Attract Native Ladybugs
If you’re not sure what plant will attract the right kind of ladybirds, refer to the list below.
- Butterfly weed
Final Words – The Cultural Value Of Ladybugs
You’d be surprised to know that ladybugs have a significant cultural influence across the world. In fact, there are many lores and myths pertaining to the number of spots on their bodies. For instance, there’s a superstition in Brussels that when this beetle sits on you, the total spots on its body signify how many children you’re going to have.
Likewise, farmers believe that the spots on the bug will indicate the state of the subsequent harvest. The produce will reap a fortune if there are less than seven dots. Still, some others say that if you correctly count all the dots when a ladybird lands on you, you will get money of the same amount.
That said, the commonest belief is that these colorful insects shower people with good fortune. Honestly, it doesn’t matter why you took such a keen interest in these playful creatures, but we hope our piece has provided you with enough information on these little beetles.
On that note, we’d like to take your leave, but do remember to count the dots if one lands on you.
Bye for now!