Often referred to as the Gardener’s Apprentice, ladybugs are often a welcome sight around gardens and crops. These brightly-colored insects voraciously devour and eat harmful aphids that damage your fruits and veggies.
Ladybugs love to eat aphids. But, aphids aren’t the only meal on their menu, and not all ladybugs benefit the home gardener.
Understanding the different species of ladybugs, and what they prefer to eat, helps keep your garden safe.
So, what do ladybugs eat besides aphids? Keep reading to find out.
What Are Ladybugs?
Also known as the Lady Beetle, the ladybug is a small but mighty omnivore, ranging in size from 1 mm to 10 mm.
Although they live only an average of 3 to 6 weeks, they’re incredibly busy little beetles. During their short lifetimes, a single ladybug can lay 1,000 eggs and eat over 5,000 aphids.
Over 5,000 different species of ladybugs exist. But, the seven-spot ladybug, or coccinella ladybug, is far and away the most recognized.
Its red, shiny shell sends out a warning signal to predators about the noxious fluid it emits if attacked.
Ladybugs prefer to lay their eggs near their favorite food source.
Not only are ladybugs robust eaters, but so are their larvae. The alligator-shaped larvae relentlessly feed for several weeks before pupating.
While most types of ladybugs prefer to eat aphids, they’re also true omnivores who will eat whatever is available. Aside from aphids, ladybugs are voracious aphid feeders but also eat:
- Mealy Bugs
- Jumping plant lice
- Spider mites
- Small spiders
They don’t limit themselves to adult insects. Ladybugs also eat eggs and larvae including:
- Moth and butterfly caterpillars
- Colorado potato beetle eggs
- Other ladybugs
What Damage Do Ladybugs Cause?
All ladybugs eat a great deal. The amount of damage they can cause depends much on their species-specific preferences.
Generally, most ladybugs native to North America have more benefits than drawbacks. They’re grouped according to their food preferences:
- Aphidophagous ladybugs eat aphids
- Coccidophagous ladybugs eat scales
- Acariphagous ladybugs eat mites
While ladybugs might nibble on the plants in your garden, most leave vegetation alone.
But, the subfamily Epilachninae is a notable exception. Known as the vegetarian ladybug, it almost only eats vegetation, including:
- Peaches, pears, and nectarines
- Figs and dates
- Raisins, grapes, and plums
- Blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries
Regardless of the species, ladybugs prefer aphids. If you have an aphid issue, you don’t have to immediately worry about the specific type of ladybug that arrives.
But, after they’ve eradicated the pests, make sure they don’t then move on to eat your plants.
Asian Lady Beetle
While vegetarian ladybugs can eat your garden, they’re rarely more of a concern than aphids.
Most native American ladybugs benefit your fruits and veggies. Yet, an invasive species of ladybugs called Harmonia axyridis, or the Asian lady beetle, poses a unique problem.
Asian lady beetles eat aphids, so they’re welcome in your garden, but they can pose problems if they enter your home.
They often confuse homes with rocky cliffs and attempt to hibernate inside. This usually happens in October.
A few ladybugs in your home might not sound like a big deal. But the Asian lady beetle emits a foul, yellow fluid that can stain your furnishings and walls.
Spotting the difference is fairly straightforward. Asian lady beetles are larger than North American ones.
While both have red and orange coloring, the Asian lady beetle can also be yellow. Plus, the Asian lady beetle has four black M-shaped spots on its back.
How To Control The Ladybug
If you have an aphid populations, ladybugs are an effective, chemical-free way to remove them.
The most effective way to attract desirable ladybugs to your yard is by planting flowers. Pollen and nectar draw in ladybugs.
You can either kill aphids with ladybugs or with pesticides. You can’t use both at the same time because you’ll kill the ladybugs.
To get rid of an Asian ladybug infestation you have a few options.
A simple and effective non-chemical option is to spray a solution of dish soap diluted with water where they congregate. It not only kills them, but it also helps clear away their yellow residue.
Another option is to place small dishes of juice or sugar water around your house. The ladybugs will follow the scent and drown.
These effective non-chemical solutions for killing ladybugs in your house are effective. This means chemical options are not necessary.