Ladybugs (Ladybirds or Lady Beetles) are beneficial insects that can help control garden pests. The ladybug feeds on various soft-bodied pests that damage crops. With their voracious appetites, they can reduce the need for pesticides in your garden and farmlands.
Identification of Ladybugs
We all know bright red-colored ladybugs with black dots, but did you know that there are many types of ladybugs with different color variations?
- The color of the ladybug’s eggs may vary depending on the type of ladybug, but usually, it’s cream.
- Ladybugs’ eggs are laid in small clusters, consisting of 20 to 40 eggs.
- The eggs are oval-shaped and have a sticky surface that helps them attach to the plant.
- Larvae look like tiny alligators and range from pale yellow to black with red or orange markings.
- The larvae markings can also vary, with some having two rows of spots while others may have only one row.
- They are ¼ inches (6 mm) long.
- Ladybug pupae are humpbacked with a rough shell surface.
- They are yellow to bright orange.
- Pupae are about 3/16 inches (5 mm) long.
- Ladybugs are ¼ inch (6 mm) long, oval-shaped beetles.
- These beneficial insects can be in various colors, including red, yellow, orange, and black.
- Ladybugs are small, dome-shaped, with shiny, rigid elytra (wing covers).
- They have markings, but the number of markings depends on the species.
Lifecycle of Ladybugs
Ladybugs are active from spring to autumn. They overwinter as adults in weeds, tree bark, and even human-made structures. They mate in the early summer, after which they lay clusters of eggs on leaves, twigs, and stems, usually beside aphid colonies. A single female will lay approximately 300 eggs during its lifetime.
Once the larvae have hatched, they start ferociously eating small, soft-bodied insects. They will consume 60% – 100% of their body weight each day throughout their growing process.
Larvae will shed their skin multiple times before pupating and turning into adult bugs. It takes about 7 to 10 days for the larvae to turn into a pupa, then into an adult.
Same as larvae, adult ladybugs will also feed on garden pests, but they are known to migrate if there is not enough food. Then, they will find a spot for diapause (hibernation) in tree cracks, underneath rocks, or leaves on the ground during the autumn. The lifecycle of this beneficial predator from egg to adult will take approximately 4 to 8 weeks. The ladybugs’ life spans last for about one year or longer, depending on the specific species.
Watch a short timelapse video about the life cycle of a ladybug.
Pests Ladybugs Control
Ladybug adult and larva will eat many soft-bodied pests and their eggs. These include:
- Asparagus Beetle Larvae
- Colorado Potato Beetle Larvae
- Lace Bugs
- Mexican Bean Beetle Larvae
- Spider Mites
- Small Caterpillars
How to Attract Ladybugs?
Food. When there is a lack of pests, the ladybugs’ diet will consist of pollen and nectar. More plants in your garden or farm mean more food for the ladybugs. So, by providing them with plants with clusters of tiny flowers, you will encourage them to stay.
Shelter. The ladybug larvae and adults need to hide from predators. So, provide them with shelter like insect hotels. Keep your garden wild by leaving twigs and rocks so that ladybugs can always find a safe place to hide and hibernate.
Reduce Pesticides. Pesticides can kill off many of the pests that ladybugs depend upon for survival, which forces them to look for food and shelter elsewhere. So, reducing or even eliminating pesticides will increase the pest population, but this will also increase the ladybug population. This way, you will have an army of ladybugs ready to protect your garden.
Purchase. It is much better to attract local ladybugs. Still, you can purchase them as eggs, larvae, or adults and release them into your garden. But… there is always a but… As ladybugs are live creatures, purchasing them will not guarantee that they will stay in your garden.
Pro tip: If you decide to buy adult ladybugs, it is essential to remember that these ladybugs are kept in refrigerators. This type of storage forces ladybugs to hibernate. So, it is necessary to release them beside a large food source. If there are no insect colonies like aphids, you can make homemade sugar water and place it below the plant.
Interesting Facts About Ladybugs
- Ladybugs usually move into an area once pest populations increase. So, if you only have a few pests, it is unlikely that ladybugs will stay in your garden for long.
- Ladybugs can consume up to 5,000 aphids in their lifetime.
- Many species of ladybugs can fly at speeds up to 15 miles per hour.
- The spots on the ladybug’s thorax resemble a false head. So, predators will go after the wrong head instead of the real one.
- The ladybug will play dead by pulling its legs as a defense mechanism. It will also secrete fluid from the legs. This fluid has a foul odor and is very distasteful, forcing the predator to let go of the ladybug.
What to Do Next
Check out our other Beneficial Insects Guides. Read and learn more about how to identify, their benefit, and how to attract them.
Check out our Garden Pests Guides. Read and learn about how to identify and control garden pests.
Also, check out our Gardening Guides to learn easy step-by-step tutorials.
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