Ladybugs are a beloved fixture in our gardens. But there’s more to them than cuteness. These backyard insects are worth a second glance.
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Ladybugs are named after the Virgin Mary.
Ladybugs can be male or female, so why are they called “ladies?” According to Merriam Webster, their names are after one lady: the Virgin Mary. The seven-spot Ladybug is one of the most popular European ladybugs. Its seven marks remind people of the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary. These insects are also known as Marienkafers or Mary’s beetles by Germans.
They aren’t bugs.
Ladybugs are not bugs; they’re beetles. True bugs are part of the order Hemiptera. This includes familiar insects like bedbugs, cicadas, and other insects. Ladybugs are part of Coleoptera, the beetle class. Many entomologists prefer to refer to them as “ladybeetles” or Coccinellids.
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Ladybugs are sometimes called cows, bishops or birds by some people.
The Ladybug can be found in parts of England. There are many local variations of this name, including the amazing barnabee. Because these insects can fly, most English people use the term ladybird.
The little cow is a nickname for the portly, spotted Ladybug in many languages. Bozhya korovka is a Russian name for the Ladybug. It means “God’s little cow” in Russian. The English used to call it a ladybug before switching to ladybird and bishop.
Ladybugs come in a variety of colours.
The twenty-two spot ladybug. / Dan Kitwood/GettyImages
Red ladybugs are known for their black spots. However, members of the ladybug family can come in many colours—ashy grey to dark brown to metallic Blue. There are many patterns to choose from: some have stripes while others have squiggles. Some have none at all. The number of spots in the spotted ladybugs varies. The two-stabbed Ladybug has only two bright red dots. The yellow twenty-two spot ladybug is on the other side. It has 22.
Ladybugs love to complicate things. The harlequin ladybug is available in a variety of colours, including black, yellow, and red. It can also have any number of spots from zero up to 22.
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These colours are warning signals.
To avoid being eaten, you can be toxic or just plain bad-tasting if you are an animal. Many animals make chemicals that taste bad and warn predators by using bright colours. It’s kind of like a stop sign.
Striped Skunks are a dangerous breed. They have a strong smell and a black and white pattern that serves as a warning sign. The highly venomous coral serpents are characterized by bright red, yellow, and black stripes. Ladybug species in bright colours also walk billboards saying, “Don’t eat me.” You’ll get sick.”
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Ladybugs protect themselves from toxic chemicals.
Do not panic! Ladybugs are harmless unless you consume many kilos of them or if you have an allergy to them. Many ladybugs are toxic to birds and other predators. These noxious substances are tied to the colour of a ladybug. The stronger these toxins, the brighter they are.
They also lay more eggs for their children.
Ladybug mothers lay many eggs on one plant. However, not all of them are destined for hatching. Some eggs are missing embryos. These are delicious gifts from the mother ladybug. The newly hatched larvae will eat them.
Ladybug larvae look a lot like alligators.
Ladybug larvae look adorable. / Navid Linmann // iStock via Getty Images Plus
You might think of baby ladybugs as adult ladybugs, but smaller. Cute, right? The ladybug eggs hatch into a long, spiny larva that looks a lot like an alligator.
Ladybug larvae can be scary, but they are not dangerous to humans. They live in a crawling mode, growing and feeding until they become something more bizarre.
Ladybug pupae look like aliens.
Next, a ladybug will find a spot on a piece of vegetation and settle down. Then, they will become alien-looking pupas. The Ladybug transforms from larva to adult by creating new body parts and breaking down old ones. Once the adult is ready for its release, it will burst from its old skin.
Ladybugs are able to fly with their hidden wings.
Ladybugs aren’t very aerodynamic. The modified wings on their colourful, domed backs are made from hardened armour. Flapping them would take a ladybug nowhere quickly. How do these insects fly?
A ladybug lifts its protective covers when it takes off. Another pair of wings is hidden beneath that is slim and ideal for flight. They can be folded up for storage or unfolded for takeoff.
Ladybugs can survive winter as adults.
Adult ladybugs are often associated with sunny summer days, but they can be found even in winter. They go into a rest state and snuggle together in groups under leaves or in logs.
The harlequin ladybug is one species that keep our homes warm. These insects can gather in large numbers and settle in dark places in your house. They will blunder about the room on warm, unseasonable days. These insects are not able to eat or chew on our furniture. However, they can squirt a toxic defensive liquid that can stain surfaces. They can also cause allergic reactions.
They are voracious predators, but mostly.
Ladybugs are beloved by everyone. One reason is that they are a natural and adorable form of pest control. They eat plants pests like aphids and scale bugs. A ladybug can consume 5000 aphids in its lifetime.
Many ladybugs eat pollen and other plants as a supplement to their diet. Some ladybugs eat only vegetation and fungi. For example, the orange Ladybug eats mildew. Garden plants are often on the menu. The Mexican bean beetle eats beans, while the squash beetle eats cantaloupe and pumpkin.
Ladybug species are being spread around the globe by us.
Ladybug species have been discovered in places where they were not previously known. There are two ways they have spread: Some people have brought the bugs over to fight agricultural pests. Other times, the bugs have hopped on to imported goods.
These results have not always been good. The harlequin ladybug is a native of East Asia but has now spread to North America and Europe. It infects native species with a deadly fungal parasite and even eats them.
They can cause damage to your wine.
Winemakers now face an unusual problem due to the harlequin ladybugs: ladybug contamination.
Many vineyards are located near other crops like soybeans. Ladybugs love to eat the aphids infesting those crops. However, once they are harvested, they need a new home. Some of them crawl on the grapes and wander over to the vineyards.
The grape harvest is next. Inadvertently, the ladybugs get sucked up with grapes. Ladybugs then release a protective fluid that smells like vinegar. It has a distinctive, sour flavour compared to peanuts and asparagus. Cheers!