Ladybugs, as the Coccinellidae family comprising of small beetles, is referred to particularly in North America, are described as colorful insects with a dome-shaped back, and a striped or spotted pattern. In Britain, as well as many other English speaking countries they are known by the name ladybird. Etymologists, on the other hand, call them lady beetles or ladybird beetles since they do not belong to the group of true bugs. They are often considered a boon to farmers since many beetle species prey upon pests causing harm to crops, though at times they could also be a bane.
List of the Common Types of Ladybug Species
There are more than 5,000 ladybird species worldwide, with most of them found in the United States, particularly North America. Some of the notable and commonly found species of ladybugs are mentioned below:
Size: These small-sized species have a size of 0.8-18mm (0.03-0.71 inches) on an average. A few of them are large, with the large leaf-eating ladybird (Henosepilachna guttatopustulata) being one of the biggest among the lot having a length of 7-9 mm (0.27-0.35 inches)
Weight: They are light-bodied, weighing around 4.4 pounds (.02 grams).
Color: Though red is their primary color, they also occur in yellow and orange. Some species even come in blue (steelblue beetle), pink (pink spotted lady beetle) or grey (ashy grey lady beetle). The fifteen spotted lady beetle is one among the three species with a white body. Most of the beetles have black spots on their body while some could have colored ones too. A few like the Paranaemia vittigera are striped while some possess no markings at all.
Body: Most of them appear round or elliptical with a dome-shaped body.
Head: Ladybirds have a small, black, head, which houses its antennae, mouthparts, and compound eyes. On each side of their head are two white patches appearing as small spots.
Pronotum: The pronotum located at the back of their head is responsible for its round shape. It also helps to protect and hide the ladybug’s head.
Eyes: They have two tiny eyes on top of their head; however, these insects lack a proper vision and mostly see in black and white.
Wings: They possess two pairs of wings located on the thorax. The forewings or the elytra have a thick, hardened texture, with a curved shape, protecting their soft, delicate hind wings that they use for flight. Their wings are so thin that one may be able to see through them.
Thorax: The ladybug’s thorax is an essential part of their body, comprising their reproductive organ, digestive system as well as the poisonous gel.
Legs: They possess six, short jointed legs, black in color.
Ladybugs come from all over the world, including the United States, Britain, and other European countries. They also dwell in several Asian countries like Korea, Japan, China, as well as Russia. In recent times there has been a decline in their numbers by about 20% in Ireland and Great Britain, changes in the environment being one of the primary reasons.
Where Do Ladybirds Live
They have diverse habitats, including fields, on trees, shrubby lands, gardens, and even in one’s home. For instance, in North America, they start entering people’s houses at the onset of autumn in search of a place to spend the cold winters that follow.
What Do They Eat
They mostly thrive on aphids, alongside other insects having soft bodies like whiteflies and mites. Some are herbivores, mostly eating leaves, potatoes, beans and a host of other crops, thus posing a threat for farmers.
How Long Do They Live
In the wild, a ladybug lives between 2 and 3 years on an average.
They have a unique ability to play dead, mainly when they sense an impending danger around. They would either remain still or put their head and legs beneath their body and thorax, respectively.
Most of them are diurnal, being majorly active during the day when it is bright and sunny as these conditions are favorable for its feeding as well as mating. Those dwelling in the temperate regions hibernates in winters.
Ladybugs vary from one another in terms of behavior. As some of them are social creatures, a few prefer living a solitary life. At the same time, certain species thrive in groups only in the winter times or when they are migrating.
Their bright-colored spotted body is appealing enough to warn predators to keep out of their reach.
The mechanism of reflex bleeding is another technique implemented by the ladybug to escape from their enemies. They secrete an alkaline kind of substance from the joints of their exoskeleton that has an overpowering scent, giving the impression that they are bleeding. In this manner, they can escape from the clutches of being preyed upon.
Their elytra or the hardened outer shell also acts as a shield while their wings help them in fleeing from the ground the moment they are chased.
Reproduction and Mating
They have their own technique of attracting their mate, with their breeding season mostly being during spring as well as early summer. The male ladybugs grip on to their female counterparts from behind, copulating for about 2 hours. The females may store the male’s sperm for approximately two to three months before laying their eggs, which is done when food is widely available.
Life Cycle of a Ladybird
The lifecycle of a ladybug has four distinct stages, namely the egg, larvae, pupa, and adult.
After mating, the female lays between five and thirty eggs on the leave’s undersides. These tiny eggs have a yellow coloration. According to scientists, these eggs may be fertile or infertile, with the latter serving as food for the larvae during the non-availability of aphids.
They come out of the eggs within a span of two to ten days. They have an elongated, bumpy appearance, almost resembling tiny alligators. Most of the ladybird larvae have a black body with bright bands or spots. They are also known to have a fierce, scary look, opposite to what they appear as adults. The larvae are voracious eaters, mostly feeding on soft-bodied insects as well as ladybug’s eggs, too, as mentioned above. One larva can eat about 350-400 aphids. As it is prepared to step into the pupa stage, the larva gets onto a leaf or any other surface.
They are orange or yellow with markings of black, mostly remaining still, attached to a leaf, throughout the phase. This stage lasts for a week or two.
The adults emerging from the pupa possess a pale, yellow body and gradually appear bright as it matures. Their exoskeletons are soft, making them vulnerable to predators.
1. Why are they called ladybugs?
There is an interesting story about how the ladybird got its name. The term lady was after the Virgin Mary, who was projected in several paintings to wear a red cloak. The seven-spot ladybird’s spots symbolized her seven joys and sorrows. A legend has it that the farmers in Europe prayed to Mother Mary when pests were destroying their crops. At this time of crisis, ladybirds came as their savior, destroying the pests. Since then, the farmers named them “the beetle of our lady.” While Britain kept the name ladybird, America called them ladybug.
2. Are there white beetles?
Yes, there are three species of beetles with a white body, namely the fifteen-spotted lady beetle, the twenty-spotted lady beetle, and the ash grey lady beetle.
3. What are the predators of ladybugs?
Several insects and birds prey upon the ladybug like swallows, crows, martins, swifts, ants, parasitic wasps, assassin bugs, and dragonflies.
4. Are all ladybugs females?
No, irrespective of their name, there are male and female species, as seen in all insects.
5. Are ladybugs poisonous?
No, not when it comes to humans. However, they are known to be toxic to certain insects and pests like the aphids.
6. Are ladybirds beetles?
They belong to the small beetles family.
7. What is a collection or group of ladybugs called?
A group of ladybugs is called loveliness.
In 1999, NASA took the initiative of sending four ladybugs to space on a shuttle along with aphids under the leadership of Eileen Collins. This was done to see if the aphids could get away from being preyed upon by the ladybugs in zero gravity.
The ladybird has a host of religious implications apart from being linked to the Virgin Mary. In several cultures, it is known as a “little cow”, “God’s little cow, “little horse,” and “lady cow” because of its divine association.
They have been popular among children particularly after the famous nursery rhyme “Ladybird ladybird.”