Thursday, May 10, 2012

Today's Trivia – Ladybugs

This week’s trivia is about another one of my favourite critters in the backyard...

- Ladybugs, also known as ladybirds, are beetles belonging to the family Coccinellidae. Lesser-used names include God's cow, ladyclock, lady cow, and lady fly.

- Scientists prefer to use the names ladybird beetles or, better yet, lady beetles since these insects are not true bugs (nor birds).

- Ladybugs range from 1 mm to 10 mm (0.04 to 0.4 inches), and are commonly yellow, orange, or scarlet with small black spots on their wing covers, with black legs, head and antennae.

- Not all ladybugs are red with black spots. Depending on the species, they may be striped or one solid colour. A very large number of ladybugs are mostly, or entirely, black, grey, or brown.

- These pretty little beetles are found worldwide. There are more than 450 native to North America alone.

- Although a few species are considered pests in North America and Europe, ladybugs are generally beneficial insects since they feed on pests in gardens, agricultural fields, orchards, and similar places.

- Ladybugs eat aphids, scale insects, white flies and mites. Over their lifetime, they may consume as many as 5,000 aphids. A hungry ladybug adult can devour 50 aphids per day.

- Predatory ladybugs are usually found on plants where aphids or scale insects are, and they lay their eggs near their prey, to increase the likelihood the larvae will find the prey easily. Ladybugs are cosmopolitan in distribution, as are their prey.

- It is a myth that the number of spots on this insect's back indicates its age. In some cases, though, you can determine the ladybug's species by taking note of the number and position of those markings. The seven-spotted lady beetle, for example, has seven black spots on its red back.

- Ladybugs are not bugs. The term “bug” refers to a group of insects that have mouthparts that form a beak for sucking. Ladybugs have mouth parts for chewing.

- Ladybug larvae resemble tiny alligators with elongated bodies and bumpy skin. The larvae feed and grow for about a month, and consume hundreds of aphids or other insects during this stage.

- Eggs hatch in 3–4 days from clutches numbering from a few to several dozen. Depending on resource availability, the larvae pass through four instars over 10–14 days, after which pupation occurs. After a teneral period of several days, the adults become reproductively active and are able to reproduce again, although they may become reproductively quiescent if eclosing late in the season.

- Adults may live up to a year or two, and can lay over 1,000 eggs.

- Ladybugs leak their body fluids when attacked. The fluid is bitter and poisonous and predators quickly learn to avoid them.

- If food is scarce, ladybugs will go as far as eating each other as a means to survive.

- Ladybugs also require a source of pollen for food and are attracted to specific types of plants such as buckwheat, coriander, red or crimson clover, legumes like vetches, bronze fennel, dill, coriander, caraway, angelica, tansy, yarrow, coreopsis, cosmos (especially the white ones), dandelions and scented geraniums.

- Most ladybugs over-winter as adults, gathering in large numbers on the south sides of large objects such as trees or houses during the winter months. Thousands of ladybugs may gather in the same location, taking advantage of the collective warmth of a colony. They disperse in response to increasing day length in the spring.

- Asian multicolored ladybugs, an invasive species in North America, have earned a reputation as a home invader. They tend to move indoors for winter, where they can become a nuisance in people's houses.

- Ladybugs are often brightly colored to ward away potential predators. This phenomenon is called aposematism and works because predators learn by experience to associate certain prey phenotypes with a bad taste (or worse).

- Scientists believe that certain species of ladybugs lay extra infertile eggs with the fertile eggs. The infertile eggs provide a backup food source for the larvae when they hatch. The ratio of infertile to fertile eggs increases with scarcity of food at the time of egg laying.

- In the past, ladybugs were dedicated to the Virgin Mary and were thought to have supernatural powers.

- Legend has it that crops in Europe during the Middle Ages were plagued by pests, so the farmers began praying to the Blessed Lady, the Virgin Mary. Soon, the farmers started seeing ladybugs in their fields, and the crops were miraculously saved from the pests. They associated their good fortune with the black and red beetles, and so began calling them lady beetles. In Germany, these insects go by the name Marienkafer, which means Mary beetles. The 7-spotted lady beetle is believed to be the first named for the Virgin Mary; the red color represents her cloak, and the black spots represent her sorrows.

- Many cultures consider ladybugs lucky and have nursery rhymes or local names for the insects that reflect this. For instance, the Turkish name for the insect is uğur böceği, literally meaning luck bug. In many countries, including Russia, Turkey, and Italy, the sight of a ladybug is either a call to make a wish or a sign that a wish will soon be granted.

- The ladybug has been chosen as the state insect of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and Tennessee.


  1. I love them as well. When we were kids, it was considered ultra lucky if one landed on you. I still get excited if this happens. (I'll get help one day!)

    1. Maybe we'll run into each other at the 'help' center. I feel the same way.

  2. Who doesn't love ladybugs! I didn't know about their connection to the Virgin Mary -- interesting!

    1. They're quite adorable. I didn't know about their connection either to the Virgin Mary until I did some research about them. It really is fascinating!

  3. We have found that the yellow/orange ones will nip us. It hurts. But I still like to have them in my yard as they do keep the aphid population down and my lupins can bloom without trouble.

    1. Oh yes, I love that they are a natural control for aphids...those horrible bugs! That is one huge reason why people love these small creatures.