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Beneficial Insect – Ladybugs (Lady Beetles)

Lady Bug

Common Name: Ladybugs (Lady Beetles)

Genus: Coccinellidae

Description:

Ladybugs share a characteristic shape – a dome-shaped back and a flat underside. Ladybug elytra display bold colors and markings, usually red, orange, or yellow with black spots. Ladybugs walk on short legs, which tuck away under the body. Their short antennae form a slight club at the end. The ladybug's head is almost hidden beneath a large pronotum. Ladybug mouthparts are modified for chewing.

Male ladybugs have more hair-like structures called setae on the last segment of their abdomen. The have large prominent bands on the underside between the segments with a notch on the posterior segment

Female ladybugs are usually slightly larger than males. Female ladybugs do not have lots of setae, just a few on the last segment on the underside of their abdomen. They do not have large prominent bands between the segments or a notch on the rounded posterior segment.

Test you knowledge and take the Ladybug Quiz.

Diet:

Most ladybugs are predators with ravenous appetites for aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Adult ladybugs will eat several hundred aphids before mating and laying eggs on the infested plants. Ladybug larvae feed on aphids as well.

Life Cycle:

Eggs

Ladybug Eggs Ladybugs lay eggs in clusters. mainly on the underside of leaves, and usually on or near plants with a sufficient population of aphids, scales or mealybugs.

Ladybug eggs look similar to small jelly beans and are arranged in clusters. See image opposite of an adult female ladybug laying a cluster of eggs.

Larvae

Ladybug Larvae After 3 – 12 days, larvae of ladybugs hatch from the eggs. Larvae are elongated and look similar to a tiny alligator. Their bodies are covered with bristles. Some larvae have black spots or bands of bright color which will eventually form to create their adult spots. Image below is a typical example of a ladybug larva.

These tiny larvae have an insatiable appetite, during this stage single larvae devour hundreds of aphids. They not only dine on aphids, but they also eat other soft-bodied insects including scale insects, mites, adelgids, and insect eggs. They cannot fly at this stage so will seek out food locally. They may also eat eggs of other species too.

After hatching out, the larva is in its first instar (a phase between two periods of molting). It eats and eats until it grows in size, breaks out of its shell (cuticle) and molts. Usually, a larva molts four times in total before it becomes a pupa. Now, this larva will attach itself to leaf when it is ready to pupate.

Pupae

Ladybug Pupae After the larval stage, comes the pupa stage. Pupae are usually yellow or orange with dark markings. In this stage pupa is still, attached to a leaf, it’s body experiences striking change. Pupal stage may last for 3 to 12 days, depending upon the species, temperature, and environment also play a factor. image shows a ladybug in mid pupa progress.

Adult

As soon as the metamorphosis is complete, a beautiful soft bodied adult ladybug emerges. This recently emerged ladybug does not look like the one we see in our gardens. It appears pale, golden or even pinkish when only a couple of hours old.

Mating and Reproduction

Ladybug Mating Ladybugs reproduce sexually. The exact ladybug courting ritual is not precisely known. They all emit pheromones to help attract a suitable mate and begin the process of mating. As soon as male finds a suitable mating partner he mounts on top of her from behind and grips tightly with his front four legs.

This process of copulating can last for up to two hours. Female ladybugs can have more than one partner while mating. She can store sperm for up to 3 months before she’s ready to lay eggs.

A female ladybug lays her eggs where there’s an abundant supply of food, often near to colonies of aphids. If food availability is insufficient, she’ll lay both fertilized and unfertilized eggs alongside each other, so that larvae, when hatched, can feed on unfertilized eggs to satisfy their body’s immediate nutritional requirement.

Gestation Period

Their gestation period lasts for 4 – 7 weeks. The number of offsprings depends upon the type of species but eggs are laid usually in clusters of 10-15 eggs, usually 1 – 2 weeks.

Gardening With Green Lacewings:

Release at dusk, after spraying some plants with water, so they can drink. Release near infestations in small amounts over a two week period. Release Rates: 1,600 ladybugs covers aprox.100 sq. feet. Half pint covers aprox. 3,000 sq. feet. 1 gallon covers aprox. 1 - 5 acres Heavy infestations use 1-2 gallons per acre.