Have you ever wondered – What Do Ladybugs Eat?
For generations, children have been taught the warning in the old Mother Goose rhyme,
“Lady Bug, lady bug, fly away home;
your house is on fire, and your children are gone.”
This insect, so familiar to all has three common names:
- Lady bug
- Lady bird
- Lady beetle
By whatever name called, they are valuable to gardeners because they eat, kill and get rid of aphids rapidly.
The ladybug or ladybird is one of our most beneficial insects useful to man. It is a tireless worker in the garden for pest control.
What Do Ladybugs Eat Besides Aphids?
Ladybugs are highly effective in removing aphids and thrips from all types of plants.
If you are wondering if ladybugs kill spider mites? The answer is yes!
Entomologists have records showing a single, full-grown ladybug eats 25 aphids a day, and some adult beetles gobble up to 50.
They munch their foes contentedly in the warm weather periods from late spring to early fall and then hibernate for the winter.
In some parts of the U. S., they are active for six months of the year, depending upon the length of the season.
These popular little bugs technically called Hippodamia convergens, belong to the beetle tribe.
What Does A Ladybug Look Like?
Lady bugs are almost circular in shape and distinguished by yellow or reddish elytra (wing covers) which are variously spotted with black.
There are many species of ladybugs. The common ones are red, tan, or brown, usually with black spots which vary from two to 16, depending on the species.
A few have no spots at all, and some are black, sometimes red-spotted.
They are usually ovoid in shape or roundish in shape.
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Ladybug?
The ladybug life cycle begins when the adult female ladybug lays its eggs on the stems and undersides of leaves where there is a plentiful supply of food, usually large colonies of aphids.
The small, blackish ladybug larvae feed on these.
The body is broad near the head and tapers rather abruptly to the tail.
The six legs are well developed, and the general color is blackish-gray, marked with dull yellow or reddish spots on the back and sides.
After an active existence lasting five to seven weeks depending on weather and food conditions, the larva fastens itself to the leaf by a sticky secretion.
This becomes a pupa from which the ladybug emerges in eight days.
Its diet is not limited wholly to aphids. Certain lady beetle types feed on plant scale and other small, soft-bodied species or their eggs.
Classic Use Of Lady Bug Pest Control
The classic example of the lady bugs value in biological control is their cleanup of scale insects in the California citrus orchards.
The multi-million dollar citrus industry faced ruin back in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
The introduction of an Australian relative, Vedalia australis, cleaned up the situation in less than two years. [source]
The peculiar aspect of the story is that only 140 ladybug immigrants were permitted.
But, the ladybirds multiplied so rapidly when once released in the orchards, they cleaned up the scale insects quickly.
A single female may lay up to 1500 eggs in 60 days. The time from egg to beetle varies from 12 to 30-odd days, depending on air and weather conditions.
How Do Ladybugs Protect Themselves?
These little lady beetles are not particularly fast.
When an enemy threatens, or they’re alarmed or irritated in any way, they feign death by drawing their legs close to their body and remain perfectly still.
If troubled further, they may emit a yellowish fluid with a disagreeable odor to ward off birds or other natural enemies.
Ladybugs fly only short distances and are somewhat slow on the wing.
In taking off, the two protecting wing covers are raised and held well away from the body; then the wings underneath come out.
When they alight, the wings close quickly, and the covers lowered over them automatically.
So whenever these tiny garden allies arrive in your garden rejoice, do not lament their presence for they are working for you and for Nature.
Buying Ladybirds Before Amazon
Ladybugs can be purchased online for pest control use in the garden from Amazon.
Years ago before Amazon, one of the first “sellers” of ladybugs was featured in a Time magazine article.
An Arizona man Mr. G.C. Quick was known as the ‘‘King of the ladybugs.” Mr. Quick would sell ladybugs by the quart or gallon.
He gathered them with a special vacuum cleaner and claimed to harvests 100 gallons of lady bugs.
That’s an amazing number when it has been estimated a gallon holds about 270,000 insects.
He collected them in early spring while the insects had safely overwintered in semi-hibernation.
Invite Lady bugs to your garden to help keep aphids under control.