Ladybugs are tiny, adorable insects that everybody loves to find (because they bring good luck and all). Although most commonly recognized as small red bugs with black dots, ladybugs actually come in a variety of patterns and colors. This includes bright colors and stripe markings or no markings at all, so keep an eye out for unique variations.
There are about 5000 different species of ladybugs in the world. They are graceful and harmless to humans but will destroy a large number of pests during their lifetime.
27 Interesting Facts About Ladybugs
These insects may be small but there are a lot of fascinating facts that make up these hard-shelled beauties. Let’s find out what these bugs do on earth and what makes them so unique.
Ladybugs aren’t actually bugs at all, they are beetles. They are part of the Coccinellidae family of beetles and are among the smallest in the family. So technically ladybeetles or ladybug beetles are more appropriate names.
The major difference between a beetle and a bug is what they eat. Bugs enjoy a mostly liquid diet, while beetles prefer munching away on plants and insects (and you’ll soon find out that ladybugs do a lot of this). The ladybugs’ hard shell also places it firmly within the beetle family.
It’s quite a mouthful but the scientific name for the seven-spotted ladybug is a Coccinellidae septempunctata. With each wing having three spots and one spot spread among both wings.
This is the most common ladybug and is found most frequently in Europe and North America. However, they can adapt to any habitat including grasslands, forests, cities, and rivers.
This may come as a surprise (or not, if you read the introduction) but ladybugs aren’t all red with black dots. You can also find yellow, orange, pink, brown, and even black ladybugs. And you’ll find a few rebels with stripes instead of dots.
With a species 5000 strong, there are quite a few variations of ladybug appearances. So keep those eyes peeled for a striped ladybug.
Given their tiny size, this fact might come as quite a shock. Ladybugs are known to be predators of plant pests such as aphids and can consume about 5000 of them in a lifetime, or about 50 in a day. Ladybugs also lay eggs in aphid colonies and as soon as they hatch they start feeding.
They also eat other pests such as fruit flies, thrips, and mites. And gardeners and farmers love to see ladybugs in their gardens or crops for this very reason.
Given the fact that ladybugs have a high success rate in getting rid of pests such as aphids, farmers are known to use the bugs for pest control.
The first experiment on using ladybugs as pest controllers was in the late 1880s. Ladybugs were imported into California to control a pest, the cottony cushion scale. The experiment was a huge success and orange crop growth in California tripled.
Not only do their spots make them unique and aesthetically pleasing little insects. They also serve as a warning sign against potential predators.
The warning may not be what you think it is; it’s actually to warn would-be attackers that the bug tastes terrible. Therefore, deterring any predators from making a meal out of the little fellas.
In addition to scaring off potential danger using their bright colors, ladybugs have another trick up their sleeves. They emit foul-smelling blood from their knees when startled or threatened.
The mixture of a sickly appearing ladybug as well as the yellowish liquid letting off the vile smell is meant to scare off any danger.
If both of the above-mentioned tactics fail then ladybugs are also known to play dead. This is their last line of defense against their main predators; spiders and stink bugs.
Thanks to these three forms of protection they aren’t often preyed on, but they’d rather be safe than sorry in a bug’s world.
Ladybugs living in colder parts of the world don’t migrate for winter, but rather enter insect diapause which is a type of hibernation. Ladybugs know when winter is approaching because the aphids start to disappear. They then come together to reproduce before entering hibernation.
This hibernation period can last up to nine months and during this time ladybugs live on their fat reserves. By spring ladybugs come out of hibernation and are ready for pest control duties.
If you’ve been wondering where the name “lady” comes from, you’re about to find out. Legend has it that the “lady” in ladybug dates back to the Middle Ages.
The story goes that farmers’ crops were being destroyed by aphids. The farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help and soon after the ladybugs arrived and started destroying the aphids and in turn, saving the crops. The farmers were so grateful they began calling the insects “Our Lady’s Beetles”.
Although they get rid of a large number of pests during this time, ladybugs only live for about a year. Their life cycle begins when their clutch of yellow-colored eggs are laid near food sources.
They then hatch as larvae in four to ten days and spend roughly three weeks feeding. Once they are well-fed it takes about seven to ten days for them to emerge as adults.
When the food supply is low, ladybugs will deliberately lay infertile eggs among fertile eggs. This is so that the fertile eggs can feed on the infertile eggs once they hatch.
If times are really tough a ladybug might even increase the number of infertile eggs that are laid, to give the other babies a better chance of survival.
As seen above, ladybugs have no issue eating each other. And if the infertile eggs run out and there is still no food, ladybugs will start to eat each other.
Newly emerged adults are the biggest target as they are soft enough for the average ladybug to chew.
Ladybugs have a smooth outer dome shape protecting their bodies. Underneath this shell are their hidden wings. These unfold at a speed of 0.1 seconds and are significantly bigger than the ladybug’s body.
Once unfolded, on average, these wings can move at a rate of 85 beats per second.
Bug experts have discovered that ladybugs can fly as fast as racehorses run, reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour! Ladybugs can also stay in the air for two hours without landing.
This is especially true in North America and Canada. Scientists equate the decline to the introduction of non-native species, climate change, disease, and shifts in the amount of prey.
In an effort to track ladybug populations, the Lost Ladybug Project was created. Encouraging community members to photograph and document where and when they had seen a ladybug in North America.
As mentioned before, ladybugs have a few tactics to keep them safe from danger. Their colors warn predators of their toxicity and resultant foul taste.
Insect-eating birds and other small mammals learn to steer clear of a ladybug lunch for this very reason. And the brighter the colors, the more toxic the bug.
Don’t worry, even though ladybugs are toxic to small animals, they are harmless to humans. That is unless you are allergic, which is very rare. You would need to consume a large number of ladybugs for them to affect you.
When you think of a baby ladybug, you probably picture a very cute miniature version of an adult ladybug. Well, unfortunately, this is incorrect. When ladybug eggs hatch, what actually comes out is a long and spiny larva that resembles a tiny alligator.
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot tell the age of a ladybug by counting its spots. And if we consider all the facts up until now, this isn’t so surprising.
The most common ladybug has seven spots, meaning all ladybugs would be seven years old if this were true. But we know that the lifespan of a ladybug is only one year, meaning all ladybugs should only have one spot.
Winemakers are facing a new and bizarre phenomenon – ladybug taint. Ladybugs that are found hanging out on the grapes of vineyards are often accidentally scooped up with the grapes during harvest time.
This can startle the ladybugs who then let out their foul-smelling defensive liquid. This alters the taste of the wine which has been likened to peanuts or asparagus – no thanks!
Check out these other facts about grapes that you probably didn’t know.
While ladybugs are mainly pest controllers, you can find ladybug pests as well. The harlequin ladybug which is native to East Asia was introduced to North America and Europe in the 1980s. While they do help decrease aphid numbers, they are also pushing out native species.
This means that they can see in many directions at once. It also means that their quality of vision is not great and they can only see in black and white.
Compound eyes are common in insects and allow them to pick up movement and potential threats from all directions.
It is common to find ladybugs in most parts of the world. They have spread in a number of ways, in some cases, they would have been brought somewhere to combat agricultural pests. In other cases, they would have made their way onto imported goods and hitched a ride cross country.
Ladybugs wouldn’t however typically be found in the North and South Pole or Russia as it is too cold.
In parts of the world near large bodies of water or oceans, it’s not uncommon for masses of ladybugs (both dead and alive) to wash up onshore. The largest washup to date happened in the early 1940s. An estimated 4.5 billion ladybugs were found along 13 miles of shoreline in Libya. Only a few of them were still alive.
Scientists are still not sure why this occurs. Some theories include; ladybugs travel by floating as they can survive afloat for a day or two; the insects congregate along the shoreline due to a reluctance to cross large bodies of water; low-flying ladybugs are forced into water or ashore due to windstorms or other weather events.
Ladybugs have special organs on their feet that help them smell. They then also use their antennae to smell, taste and feel.
We all know that ladybugs bring good luck. And some believe that the brighter the color or the number of spots it has will indicate the amount of luck you’ll have.
This superstition again dates back to the good fortune that ladybugs brought farmers by destroying pests. Whether lucky or not, it is always a joy to have a ladybug land on you and there is no harm in making a lucky wish!
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Now that you know everything there is to know about ladybugs, you’ll probably look at them a little differently next time. In addition to making a wish for good luck, you might try to envision how the adorable little creature could bleed toxic yellow blood from its knees and eat thousands of pests in a lifetime.
If you enjoyed these facts about ladybugs, you should also check out these interesting facts about rabbits.