Ladybug, or Ladybird, a small beetle. Members of most species, both as larvae and as adults, feed on garden pests such as aphids, scale insects, and mealybugs. Ladybugs live in temperate and warmer parts of the world. Most are brightly colored, with spotted, dome-shaped bodies 1/16 to 3/8 of an inch (2 to 10 mm) long. They are commonly red, yellow, or orange and spotted with black, white, or yellow. Many species hibernate in winter.
The most common species are the two-spotted ladybug, the nine-spotted ladybug, and the convergent ladybug, which has 13 spots. Convergent ladybugs are raised commercially and sold to farmers and gardeners.
The Mexican bean beetle is a ladybug that eats the leaves, flowers, and pods of beans and other leguminous plants.Ladybugs are brightly colored, spotted beetles.
Ladybugs belong to the family Coccinellidae of the order Coleoptera. The two-spotted ladybug is Adalia bipunctata; nine-spotted, Coccinella novemnotata; convergent, Hippodamia convergens.
It varies. Most ladybugs share certain features. They have small, pea-shaped bodies and six short legs. Most ladybugs are less than 1/4 inch (6.35 millimeters) long. But ladybugs differ in their spots.
Most ladybugs have spots on their backs. The spots may be black, red, white, or yellow. Some kinds of ladybugs have 13 spots. Others have only 2 spots. The color of the body may be black, bright red, orange, or yellow.
Often you can see a ladybug’s bright back and spots from a distance. There is a good reason for this. Ladybugs taste bitter, and their color pattern is a warning to hungry birds and other animals to stay away. It reminds enemies that ladybugs are not good to eat.
Ladybugs go through four stages before they become adults. First there are the eggs laid by an adult female. The eggs hatch in the spring or summer as larvae (LAHR vee). Ladybug larvae are often brightly colored, and they look like tiny lizards.
The larvae eat all the time and use food energy to grow. After about three to six weeks, the larvae transform into pupae (PYOO pee).
The pupae resemble adult ladybugs, but they have softer bodies and tiny, padlike wings. The pupae develop and finally shed their old bodies. Full-grown ladybugs emerge. Males and females mate, the females lay eggs, and the cycle starts all over again.
The ladybug has a special pair of wings that protect its body from enemies. These tough, leatherlike wings are called elytra (EHL uh truh). The elytra are attached to the front of the ladybug and cover the set of wings underneath. Most beetles have elytra.
When the ladybug flies, the elytra pop open. They give the first pair of wings room to flap and flutter. When the ladybug lands, the wings go down, and the elytra close shut over them.
The ladybug has three main body parts—the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. The head contains eyes, mouth parts, and antennae. The ladybug’s mouth has pincers to chew its food. The thorax consists of three pairs of legs and the two pairs of wings. The abdomen contains organs that help the ladybug digest its food and reproduce.
The favorite food of ladybugs is a tiny insect called an aphid (AY fihd). Aphids feed on plant juices. When ladybugs eat aphids, they are doing farmers a big favor.
In the late 1800’s, a pest called the cottony cushion scale insect was eating the citrus crop in California. The farmers brought in a species of ladybug from Australia. The ladybugs ate the scale insects and saved the crop. Since then, ladybugs have been one of our most important pest controls.
In the fall, ladybugs gather together in huge groups on the ground and hibernate until spring. Some people gather sleeping ladybugs in buckets and sell them to gardeners and farmers.
Not all ladybugs are “ladies.” There are both male and female ladybugs. So how did they get their name? In the Middle Ages, farmers were grateful to the little beetles for saving their crops. They believed the way the ladybugs ate “bad” insects was a miracle that came from God. So the farmers named the insect after Mary, Jesus’s mother, who is also known as “Our Lady.”
In England, ladybugs are called ladybirds. Perhaps you’ve heard this nursery rhyme:
Fly away home.
Your house is on fire,
And your children all gone.
The nursery rhyme started from the practice of farmers burning certain fields after harvest. They wanted the ladybugs to fly away so that they could be safe and return to eat more insects.