There are around 5,000 kinds of ladybugs out there and most of them are beneficial to humans. You can easily recognize a ladybug with its red color and black spots. Perhaps you don’t know that they can come in various colors and patterns. These little creatures have their own unique ways to ward off predators. Let’s discover ladybug facts below.
1. Lady beetles, not ladybugs
The first one on the list of ladybug facts is that they are not bugs, although being called ladybugs. It is an insect and belongs to the beetle family with the name lady beetle or ladybird beetle. You can see the difference between them by following:
– Beetles have legs and firm wings, whereas bugs have softer wings or none at all.
– Bugs feature needle-like mouthparts and eat largely liquids, whereas beetles chew and eat insects and plants.
– Beetles undergo a complete metamorphosis, but bugs retain their appearance throughout their life cycle.
2. Ladybugs are named after the Virgin Mary
According to folklore, Pests devastated European harvests during the Middle Ages. Farmers couldn’t do anything but began to pray to the Virgin Mary for help. After that, an insect came like a miracle. They ate all the aphids and the crops were saved.
The farmers call these black red bugs “our lady’s birds” or “lady beetles.” And that’s how they get their name. In Germany, these insects are known as Marienkafer, which translates to “Mary beetles.” It is said that the seven-spotted ladybug is the first to be named after the Virgin Mary; the red color is considered to reflect her garment, and the black marks her seven sorrows.
The ladybird is called bishop in some parts of England for some reasons. There are other local variations of this name, like the bishy bishy barnabee. The spotted ladybug is popularly known as a little cow in various languages. For example, The English used to call it a ladycow before switching to bishop and ladybird. In Russian, people call the them bozhya korovka which translates to “God’s little cow.” In French, they use the words vache à Dieu, which means “cow of God,” for them.
3. Ladybug is fast
These insects may be small, but size is not a problem when it comes to flying ability. According to new scientific studies, a ladybird can fly at speeds up to 37 miles per hour (60kph) and at a height close to the height of the mountain Ben Nevis!
To know more about other Fastest flying insects, you may read some posts below:
If that’s not wow you enough, check this out! They can fly for up to two hours without landing. They can travel up to 74 miles in a single flight.
4. Ladybug appearance
Most lady beetles are round with a light dome-shaped body, just about 4.4 pounds (0.02 grams). Their antennae, mouthparts, and compound eyes are housed in a tiny black head. There are two white patches on each side of their head.
This little species range in size from 0.03-0.71 inches (0.8-18mm). However, there are some species that are bigger, like the leaf-eating ladybird beetle (Henosepilachna guttatopustulata). It is one of the biggest ladybugs with a length of 0.27-0.35 inches (7-9 mm).
Its thorax is an important portion of their body because it carries their reproductive apparatus, digestive system, and deadly gel. On the thorax, there are two sets of wings. The forewings, or elytra, are thick and tough with a curved form. On the other hand, the hind wings are so soft and delicate. That’s why the forewings need to be hard to protect them. Moreover, you can see through their hind wings because they’re super thin.
They have a round head due to the pronotum which is positioned at the back of their skull. It also protects and conceals the ladybug’s head. On top of the head, there are two eyes. However, they still have poor vision and can only see in black and white.
5. Ladybug – Jigsaw Animal Puzzle
6. They are not just red with black spots
The species do not just come in black and red. You and I, as well as many people usually think that all ladybugs are red with black spots. However, this’s not the case for all species. There are around 5,000 lady beetle species globally (450 of them found in North America) and you can find almost every rainbow color on them, frequently in opposing pairs.
The combinations you often see are yellow and black or red and black. Some species only have black and white or strange colors like deep blue and orange. Their patterns are varied, from spots, and stripes to checked patterns or no spots at all.
Color patterns are linked to their living area: general species that live anyplace have quite simple patterns. They will have two dramatically distinct colors for a whole year. Others that inhabit specific environments have more complicated colors. Some can even change their colors during the year.
When in hibernation and chasing predators away, they utilize a camouflage color to blend in with the environment.
7. They use their colors to defense
One of the most interesting ladybug facts is their colors. There’s a reason why they are so colorful like that: to warn off predators. These eye-catching colors are sort of warning signals to all the predators, allowing them to escape becoming prey. It’s like a yellow caution sign.
Many animals in nature have warning indicators like that. Coral snakes that are highly venomous have bright black, yellow, and red stripes. Striped skunks have a strong stinky with a black and white pattern. Similarly, brightly colored ladybugs are signaling, “Stay away, or I’ll eat you.” Birds and other animals learn to avoid foods that are red and black, and they make sure to avoid a ladybug.
Besides the bright colors, these creatures also use different methods to defend themselves:
– Another strategy used by ladybugs to escape their predators is the mechanism of reflex bleeding. They exude an alkaline material with a foul odor from the joints of their exoskeleton. This makes them unattractive to enemies and creates the image that they are bleeding. Asides, the yellow liquid they secrete is poisonous to many insect-eating birds and small animals. Their caterpillars can eject alkaloids from their abdomens as well.
– When there is an approaching threat nearby, ladybugs play dead. To play dead, they will stay still or place their heads and legs beneath their bodies and thorax. They can avoid being preyed upon in this way.
– Their tough outer shell (elytra) serves as a shield while the inside wings help them flee when they’re pursed.
Ladybugs are rarely preyed upon due to all of these defenses, however, some insect species consume them, including assassin bugs, stink bugs, and spiders.
8. They are useful to humans
Most ladybugs eat soft-bodied insects which are harmful to plant pests. As the natural enemies of pests, they are gardeners’ guests of honor. The insects like the consumption of scale insects, aphids (main course), mites, and whiteflies. In one day, an adult can chew 50 aphids. For its whole life, it can eat approximately 5,000 aphids.
Their larvae eat aphids too. Ladybugs lay hundreds to thousands of eggs in aphid colonies, and the larvae begin feeding aphids as soon as they hatch. In larvae form, they consume hundreds of pests.
That’s the story when pests are abundant. When food is scarce, things are different:
– When circumstances are rough, the insects will do whatever it takes to survive, even devouring each other. A hungry adult will eat any nearby sibling that is soft enough. They could be lately molted caterpillars or newly emerging adults.
– In one season, females can lay up to 1,000 eggs, but not all eggs will hatch. The females will lay both fertilized and unfertilized eggs. The fertilized eggs will hatch and deal with aphids, while the unfertilized eggs play as a handy supply of food for ladybugs themselves and for their young larvae.
The first larvae hatching in each batch usually begin consuming the other unhatched eggs. These eggs provide energy to the young lady beetles until they can find some aphids to eat.
– When aphids are scarce, the mature ladybug feeds on nectar, petals, pollens, honeydew, and other tender plant components. However, this is just a replaced solution until aphids are available again. These soft-body insects are essential for ladybug reproduction.
Because these insects are omnivorous insects, they prefer grasslands like shrubs, fields, and meadows to trees and bushes. When it comes to plant-based diets, they prefer dry and tough foliage over moist flora. Some ladybugs also eat potatoes, beans, and a variety of other crops, making them unwanted pests.
9. Not all ladybugs are good
Not all ladybugs are good for farmers, sometimes, they can be bad in their own ways. We’re talking about Asian Lady Beetles – a “black sheep” in the lady beetle family.
In the 1980s, the Asian Ladybug (Harmonia axyridis) was brought to the US. And now, it is one of the most widespread beetles throughout much of North America. This species does eat harmful pests, however, its harms are way far more than its benefits. Here are why:
– Besides reducing aphid populations in some agricultural systems, the Asian Ladybug also caused decreases in native lady beetles, like the North American one. The overall population of this species has declined due to the competition of the bad bug, scientists believe so!
– In the winter, instead of hibernating like other ladybugs, they choose to over-winter in human houses. They invade people’s houses with hundred or even ten thousand members each year. The lady infestation is super bad. They’re hostile, they can bite you, and they are dangerous to your dogs and cats. They can leave a bad odor yellow discharge on your furniture, your walls, and floor because of the knee-bleeding habitats.
Because of their house invasion in October (the Halloween time), they are called harlequin lady beetles and Halloween ladybugs.
– In late summer, the Asian lady beetles prepare for their winter hibernation by eating fruit, notably ripe grapes. They get picked with the crop since it blends in with the fruit. And if the winemakers don’t recognize and remove them, the terrible taste of the “knee bleed” would ruin the wine.
What’s the distinction between Asian ladybugs and other good ladybugs? The bad bugs have similar look to native ladybugs, except for one distinguishing feature. Behind their head, you will see the black “M” or “W” marking on the white section, depending on your view. There are about 19 spots on elytra, sometimes, these spots can be missing.
To get rid of Asian Lady Beetles, you can:
– Make sure all of your windows and doors are closed, and there are no slits that ladybugs can enter your house. Check everywhere in the house such as vents, chimneys, wires, or siding to ensure there’re no insects that can come into. If they get inside, you can follow these tips to get rid of Asian beetles.
– If there are a few harlequins in your home, act promptly because they can quickly multiply. Call your local pest control company before everything is too late.
10. Types of ladybugs
Ladybugs belong to the Coccinellidae family and there are about 5000 ladybug species out there. Here are some of them:
– Seven-spot ladybird, Two-spot ladybird, Nine-spotted lady beetle, Ten-spotted ladybird, Thirteen-spot ladybeetle, Fourteen-spotted ladybug, Fifteen-spotted lady beetle, Eighteen-spotted ladybird, Twenty-spotted lady beetle, 22-spot ladybird, 24-spot ladybird: As you can see, those insects have the number of spots corresponding to their names. They come with different colors.
– Yellow-shouldered ladybird, Pink spotted lady beetle, Ashy gray lady beetle, Steelblue ladybird, Black ladybug (pine ladybird), Orange ladybug: Those ladybugs are named based on their colors.
– Convergent lady beetle, Eyed ladybug, Striped ladybird, Transverse ladybird, Mealybug ladybird, Large leaf-eating ladybird, Kidney-spot ladybird, Cream-spot ladybird.
11. Ladybugs survive through winter
The species notice seasons through aphids. When the aphids start to disappear, they know the winter is coming and it’s time to breed before hibernating.
When days get shorter and the temperature is lower, the ladybugs go into diapause, a kind of insect hibernation. Ladybugs take refuge beneath barks, under leaves, and in other safe places. To get more warmth, they gather in the same place. There could be thousands of ladybugs in one location, like in the video below.
After finding a safe place, those insects will adjust their body temperature and live on their own restored energy. This energy will keep them going until the spring when aphids become abundant again. The period may extend up to nine months.
12. Ladybirds can swim
One of the unexpecting ladybug facts is that they can swim. They paddle quite skillfully in water. However, they have a bigger problem – breathing.
Ladybirds breathe via air ducts, instead of their mouths. Those air ducts – also known as spiracles – are located on the sides of their abdomen and thorax. Because the beetle is floating, the abdominal portion is above water as well as the spiracles. As long as the water does not reach the ladybug’s respiratory system, it will continue to breathe and swim.
But the ladybird closes its spiracles when in water. They rely on the air which already presents in the beetle’s system, until they reach a dry area. When you see a ladybug clinging to a dry limb, it means that that beetle is trying to take oxygen.
In spite of being a good swimmer, the ladybug can drown from lacking oxygen. A ladybug can survive in water for 30 seconds to 4 minutes before needing oxygen. In the rainy season, ladybugs seek refuge and they do not lay eggs.
13. Reproduction and Mating
The breeding seasons of lady beetles begin in the spring and early summer. The males use their own techniques to attract females. After that, the males grab their female partners from behind and they mate for around 2 hours.
If there is plenty of aphids, female will begin laying eggs within a week of mating. However, if food is insufficient, they may retain the male’s sperm for two, three, or even nine months until there’s enough condition to lay eggs.
14. The cycle of life
A ladybug’s life cycle takes around four weeks to bring several new generations during the summer. It goes through four phases: egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult.
After mating, the female lays eggs (about 5 – 50 eggs) on the undersides of the leaves, near large aphid colonies. During a year, some females can lay up to 1,000 eggs. These tiny yellow eggs are placed in batches of fifteen to thirty larval eggs, in an upright position. These eggs may or may not be fertile.
Larva hatch within two to ten days of being laid. They have a mini-alligator look with an elongated and bumpy body. In contrast to the cute look when being an adult, the caterpillars have a fierce, terrifying appearance. They have black bodies with bright stripes or dots. Because of their appearance, the larvae almost have no predators. Despite their appearance, ladybug larvae are generally safe for humans.
The larvae are ravenous eaters, they eat soft-bodied insects as well as ladybug’s eggs, too, as mentioned above. A single larva can consume 350-400 aphids. After feeding aphids for a few weeks, these caterpillars develop and molt four times a month.
The reproduction of larvae is determined by the species of ladybugs. Some species may have numerous generations throughout spring and summer, whilst others may only have one.
Pupa: Ladybug pupas are yellow or orange with black patterns. They typically stay motionless, attached to a leaf during 1 – 2 weeks.
Adults: The adults will emerge from the pupa. They have a light, yellow body that gradually brightens as it develops. Because their exoskeletons are fragile, they are vulnerable to predators.
Adults have a smooth dome shape, their forewings are protected by an exterior shell, known as the elytra. Their hidden wings appear and can move at a rate of 85 beats per second when unfold.
A ladybug’s life cycle (from egg to mature adult) needs 4 to 8 weeks. Most ladybugs survive for one year as adults. You can see their cycle of life in the video below:
15. Ladybirds are good signs
Ladybirds have had a huge impact on various cultures all over the world. In many cultures, they believe that these species are signs of good luck. In Brussels, when a ladybug comes to you, its spots foretell how many children you’ll have in the future.
Others believe that if a lady beetle lands on you and you can count the spots on it, you will receive money equal to the number of the spots. Farmers believe that the spots of the beetles predict the future of the next crop. If their dots are less than seven, you’ll have a good harvest.
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