Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ladybugs: Nature's Little Wonder

In celebration of Earth Day, I'm posting some information on ladybugs I hope you'll enjoy! These pretty little whimsical beetles are often associated with Earth Day because they are so beneficial to both home and commercial gardens.

Why do ladybugs have spots?

When you think of a ladybug, you probably have a picture in your mind of a little beetle that is bright red with several black spots on it. That’s how most people picture ladybugs and these are the most well known of all of the ladybug species.

Not all ladybugs have black spots on them, though, and not all ladybugs are red. There are many different species of ladybugs and they all look a little different in their colors and patterns. But since you, and most people, think of a ladybug as the red, spotted variety, you might wonder why ladybugs have their spots and what they mean.

The reason entomologists think ladybugs have such brilliant red coloring and black spots is to warn predators they taste really bad and are a little bit poisonous. Once a bird eats that first ladybug, it will get so sick it won’t ever want to eat another one and it will remember the unique colors and spots of the ladybug and stay far away from them.

How ladybugs can help your garden

The scientific name for a ladybug is a coccinellidae, which means ‘little red sphere,’ or coleoptera, which means ‘sheath-winged,’ but most people just call them ladybugs, lady beetles or ladybird beetles.

In the 1800s, orange and lemon farmers in California began having problems with insects destroying whole groves of orange and lemon trees. The insects were Australian scale insects, so the farmers imported Australian ladybugs and released them into the orchards. Within two years, the orchards were free of the scale bugs and the entire orange and lemon industry was saved by the ladybugs.

Today people buy ladybugs in smaller amounts to release into their gardens to have healthy plants without having to use pesticides. You can get some from your local nursery or garden center to use in your garden. You can also order ladybugs online.

The best ladybug species to use in the garden or on a farm are called hippodamia convergens. You can recognize these ladybugs by the two white dashes that are on the back of its body above the hard wing casings. These ladybugs can eat a ton of aphids in no time and they will stick around to protect your garden for a long time, too.

What do ladybugs eat?

Most ladybugs are predators. They eat other insects, most of which are considered pests to humans who like to grow plants for food or beauty. They are often called a ‘gardener’s best friend.’

The most common insects ladybugs eat are aphids. They also eat other insects that have soft bodies, like mites, white flies and scale insects – all of which are pests of plants.

The sub-family Epilachninae is actually considered vegetarian ladybugs. Some eat fungus, like mushrooms. There are some that like to dine on mildew.

Even more fun facts

· A Ladybug can lay up to 1000 eggs in its lifetime.

· Not all Ladybugs have spots.

· Ladybugs will clean themselves after a meal.

· Ladybugs come in many colors like pink, yellow, white, orange and black.

· Over 300 types of Ladybugs live in North America.

· Ladybugs hibernate in large groups in cold weather.

· Many countries consider a ladybug to be a sign of good luck.

· The spots on a Ladybug fade as they get older.

This article is courtesy of the website Ladybug Life Cycle. If you visit their site, you can find out more interesting facts. As a bonus, you can order ladybugs, ladybug growing kits and ladybug houses. Plus, you can download ladybug activity and coloring pages for the kids.

For even more information, be sure to watch the video I posted yesterday.


bermudaonion said...

Thanks for the great post! I've loved ladybugs ever since I was small.

Suko said...

I love ladybugs! I try to get "ladies in red" from Home Depot each spring to release in the garden. Wonderful post, LuAnn!

John's Arts & Crafts said...

Great Blog & Great Photos! New blog on the Hx. of the Ladybug:

photog1 said...

You are using copyrighted images without permission or without crediting the owners.