Remember those bright, scarlet-colored insects with black spots splattered all over their bodies that you fondly used to chase? The ones that used to crawl out of their hiding places whenever it used to get cloudy or rainy? The ones believed to have brought you good luck if you ever managed to catch one. That’s right, we are talking about ladybugs or, as called by the British, ladybirds.
Ladybugs are, at times, also known as lady beetles and ladybird beetles. These stunning little creatures have been around for quite some time now and have had a great impact on the cultures of different nations. This article furthers explores the convergens (ladybug) species, its habitat, sub-species and much more.
Table of Contents
- Life Cycle
- Ladybug larvae
- Quick facts about ladybugs
- The role played in farming
- Dangers to farming
- Conservation of ladybugs
- Ladybirds in culture
The ladybug species is indigenous to the Palearctic region, but also inhabits the Nearctic and oriental areas. These insects can also be located in areas other than their native regions like Australia, India, South Africa, China, Kenya, Canada, the US, and Chile. Most of the foreign countries that these insects are found in are introduced to ladybugs as means of a planned proposal to biologically control crop pests.
A ladybug primarily feeds on aphids but the earliest larvae hatching in every batch often starts by eating the other un-hatched eggs. These un-hatched eggs supply the young convergens with an energy boost until they are able to find some aphids to feed on.
When aphids are in short supply, the mature convergens consume honeydew, pollen, nectar, petals and other supple plant parts. However, this is only until they can find sufficient aphids again since aphids play an important role in the reproduction procedure of ladybirds.
Because convergens are all-devouring, omnivorous insects, they also feed on grasslands such as meadows, pastures, fields, shrubs, and gardens more than it does on trees and bushes. In case of a plant-based diet, ladybugs favor dry and rough foliage over moist vegetation.
The life cycle of a ladybug requires around four weeks for completion resulting in the production of a number of generations over the summer. The slender, elongated, soft-bodied convergen larvae are mostly gray with spots of red, blue, green or black splattered across it. These eggs feed on other smaller insects their eggs. They go through four different development stages and eventually attach to the surface of an object and pupate in their final larval membrane.
Female ladybugs lay around 200-300 eggs over spring and summer. These little, long, spindle-shaped eggs are laid near great populations of aphids, in an erect position, in batches consisting of fifteen to thirty larval eggs. The grey colored, spotted larva starts feeding and quickly growing and molting around four times within a month. The pupal phase lasts for a week and is quickly followed by mating once the eggs have hatched.
Provided, there is an abundant aphid supply, the female ladybirds again start laying within a week of mating, but if the food supply is scarce, egg laying may take up to nine months.
Another important stage in the life cycle of ladybirds is hibernation. Ladybugs regularly hibernate together in large groups each winter at the same location.
The larvae of ladybug beetles appear like that of the alligators’. Like certain ladybugs, the larvae are also predatory, often feeding on plant-eating pests. With their vivid colors, black spots and spines, the larvae themselves face little to no danger from other predators.
Even though these larvae seem dangerous, ladybug larvae are mostly harmless to human beings. These larvae feed on insect and pest preys for a few weeks and then eventually pupate by attaching themselves to leaf surfaces. Mature ladybugs continue relocating if the aphid supply becomes scarce however, the larvae prefer to stay and search for more aphid colonies.
Larvae reproduction depends on the particular species of Coccinella, a few ladybugs species may have several generations each breeding season (in the spring and summer) while others may only have a single generation. Throughout the summer, all development stages of a ladybug’s lifecycle can be found at the same time. This happens because the mature ladybugs lay their eggs in batches of 15-30 eggs and yield several batches each summer. While summers are a productive and active season for these beetles, most adult ladybugs of almost all species prefer to collectively hibernate during the winters.
Ladybugs are classified into the Insecta (Insects) class, Coccinellidae family, Hippodamia Genus and convergens species. The species convergens is further divided into sub-species. Some of the most popular and commonly found sub-species are:
The seven-spotted ladybird – coccinella septempunctata
Ladybirds of the Seven-spotted species are the most commonly spotted ladybird around Europe. Their elytra are colored bright red and dotted with three black spots each, with one additional dot spread over the junction of the two, totaling the number of spots to seven; thus, giving this species both its common as well as scientific names. The beetles of this species are also referred to as the ‘’C-7’’ beetles.
Ladybugs of this species, both the mature and the larvae, passionately feed on aphids and thus are one of their worst predators. Because of this, coccinella septempunctata have been frequently launched in different grasslands and crop fields as biological control agents and reduced aphid populations.
The Two-spotted Ladybug species are a carnivorous beetle category of the Coccinellidae family, who are also cannibalistic. These insects are commonly found in Western Europe and are actively used as biological control agents against aphid outbreaks. These are most often used in greenhouses and yielding fields to control the increasing number of pests. The most recognizable figure among the two-spot ladybug beetle is the red ladybug with two black spots on its body.
The thirteen-spotted ladybird – hippodamia tredecimpunctata
The Thirteen-spotted Ladybug, better known as the hippodamia tredecimpunctata, is another type of ladybug. Mature tredecimpunctata ladybugs primarily feature dome-shaped backs which are at times even oval, short shiny legs, and antennae. These ladybugs also feature two covers for their wings. Appearance wise, these insects are mostly red, sometimes orange in color, and dotted with thirteen dark or black splotches, hence the name “thirteen-spot ladybug”. Although the adult ladybugs are domed shamed, their larvae, however, are faintly flattened and covered with minute spines. Also, contrary to the usual groups of 15-30 small eggs laid by the other ladybugs, the thirteen spotted ladybirds lay eggs in groups of 10 – 50 on the lower surfaces of leaves.
The Asian ladybird – harmonia axyridis
Generally referred to as the multicolored Asian lady beetle because of its ability to vary in colors ranging from orange to red to yellow to even black sometimes, the harmonia axyridis is a common ladybug species in North America. The Asian lady beetles have a white segment across their heads with black markings in the shape of “M” over the white segments. It is also, at times, called the harlequin lady beetle and the Halloween ladybug because of how this insect tends to invade houses in the month of October, around Halloween time.
These ladybugs do this in order to prepare themselves for the long winter hibernation period and so do not breed or feed within the houses they invade. Although the Asian lady beetle is primarily found in North America, it can now also be spotted sporadically around the UK, where it was first identified in 2004. Other than their native land, these ladybugs have also been introduced in the South East and the Midlands.
The Coleomegilla maculate ladybird
Usually known as the pink spotted ladybug, this beetle’s body is mostly elliptical and of medium size. As its name suggests, the beetle is typically spotted in hues of pink and at times in shades of red with black spots splattered all over the body. This species is noted for both its adult beetles as well as the larvae being voracious aphid predators although they also feed on other grubs such as flies, mites, small larvae, and insect eggs. Beetles of this species are one of the few beetles of the Coccinellidae family who feed on plant pollen too. In fact, they consume almost the same amount of plant pollen and nectar as aphids, making pollen a 50% constituent of their diet.
The Hippodamia convergens ladybug
The convergent lady beetle is the most commonly spotted ladybug. Mostly the ladybug you find in your gardens and green spaces are beetles of this species. The convergent beetles are medium-sized yellow or orange colored beetles with black spots on their bodies. These, too, are avid aphid eaters.
Quick facts about ladybugs
Ladybugs are invertebrates that belong to the family Coccinellidae. Even though ladybugs typically feed on aphids, they also feed on plants and grasslands sometimes, making them omnivorous insects. These insects also display cannibalistic behaviors. A ladybug has the average lifespan of around 2 to 3 years in the wild and longer in controlled environments. Length-wise, ladybugs vary in sizes based on the species they belong to but the average size of a ladybug is 0.3-0.4 inches.
Ladybugs are known for their colorfully spotted bodies but what most people fail to realize is the reason for these bright colors. Entomologists believe that these insects display these eye-popping colors as a warning indication to their predators in order to avoid falling prey to them. Ladybugs also tend to secrete a certain odorous and noxious liquid from their leg joints, which helps in giving them an unsavory taste, once again making them unappealing to their predators. A threatened ladybug is also noted to appear dead as well as secrete the aforementioned unappetizing substance in order to protect itself.
Other than just their aesthetically pleasing and colorful appearance, ladybugs are well received among the people for other, more important reasons as well. Such as farmers using these miniature insects as pest control agents.
The role played in farming
Most ladybugs are avid consumers of plant-feeding insects like aphids. So in cases of aphid outbreaks, ladybugs are introduced in crop areas in order to eliminate these crop-harming insects by feeding on them and acting as pest controls. This not only protects the crops from the aphids but also from the harmful insecticides and pesticides that would otherwise harm both the aphids as well as the crops. Ladybugs manage to control these increasing aphid populations by laying numerous eggs in the form of groups and colonies near these aphid nests. On hatching, the Coccinella larvae instantly start feeding on these aphids, thus getting rid of them. Researchers claim that a single ladybug consumes around as many as 5,000 aphids and other sap feeders in its life span, alone.
Dangers to farming
Not all ladybugs are crop-friendly. Unlike most ladybug beetles, the Mexican bean beetle and the squash beetles are more of a threat to crops. The Mexican bean beetle specifically targets beanstalks, garden beans and rarely soybeans. These ladybugs are very easy to identify because of their orange bodies that sport around eight black dots on every wing cover. While the seven-dotted squash beetle devours squash plants, pumpkins, and cantaloupes. In the case of either of these beetle infestations, pesticides that target these specific insects are suggested.
Conservation of ladybugs
Ladybugs are responsible for playing a very crucial role in acting as biological pest control agents. They help manage certain pests like aphids that tend to harm crops and fields and prevent the crops from being destroyed. Therefore, it is equally crucial to conserve these species of Coccinellidae. A few measures that can be taken for the conservation of ladybugs and maximization of their impacts include recognizing different development stages of their life cycles and ensuring that these phases are not disturbed.
Identifying the importance of these insects is also very important in order to ensure their safety. Another important precautionary measure is limiting the use of insecticides and only using them when necessary. Even so, it is advised to use selective insecticides, which would not harm or kill the ladybugs. Adding more plants and feeding grounds with nectar and pollen also increases the conservation prospects for ladybugs since these are important components of their diets.
Ladybirds in culture
Ladybirds have significantly influenced different cultures around the globe. There are numerous different myths around the world regarding ladybugs and the number of their spots. For instance, in Brussels, it is believed that when a ladybug lands on you, the spots on that beetle tell you the number of children you will have in the future.
Similarly, countless farmers around the planet claim that the dots on a ladybug tells the fate of the next crop, less than seven spots mean the harvest will be good. Others deem that if a ladybug lands on you and you are able to count the spots on it, you will soon receive dollars amounting to the same total as the spots. However, most just believe that ladybugs bring good fortune and luck to those who they land on.
So whether it is the different species of ladybugs, their habitat, lifecycle, or cultural influence that interests you, this article would surely have left you well informed about these cute little beetles.
Now, the next time you have a ladybug land on you, don’t forget to count those spots!
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