Ladybugs are some of the most loved insects we have on our planet. People appreciate them for their beautiful yet curious appearance, and farmers love them for their function. Ladybugs eat various plant-eating insects such as aphids, making them useful in garden settings. You may also know these graceful insects as ladybugs, lady beetles, or ladybird beetles. Here, you’ll discover a range of facts about ladybugs that'll prompt you to appreciate various ladybug species even more.
One of the interesting facts about ladybugs is that not all ladybugs are red with black spots. The world has about 5000 species of ladybugs spread across various areas.
Generally, the most common ladybug or lady beetle is the one with the red and black hues. This is the seven-spotted ladybug, a native species to Europe. Apart from the seven spotted ladybugs and seven spotted lady beetle, you'll also find ladybugs in nearly all bright colors of the rainbow. We have the red and black beetles and some ladybugs in pink, orange, brown, yellow, and black hues.
The ladybug’s body can also be an ashy gray or dull brown color. Apart from differences in ladybug hues, their patterns also vary. Spotted ladybugs tend to be the most popular. However, some of these insects have stripes, while others have no pattern at all.
Due to their feeding patterns, the ladybug is among the most appreciated insects, especially by gardeners and farmers. One of the most common facts about ladybugs is that they are aphid eaters. As a result, they serve as beneficial insects in garden spaces.
Most ladybugs love eating soft-bodied insects and serve as potential predators to other insects. A ladybug will eat scale insects, aphids, mites, fruit flies, and whiteflies. According to research, one larva or a hungry ladybug can eat up to 50 aphids daily1. Also, adult ladybugs consume about 5000 aphids in a lifetime, while female ladybugs consume about 300 aphids before laying eggs. Generally, you'll find an adult ladybug lunch on even the most prolific plant pests.
Due to their name, it's easy to believe that ladybugs are bugs. However, this is one of the facts about ladybugs that may surprise you. Ladybugs are not actually bugs; they’re beetles. Therefore, the name lady beetle seems to be more befitting.
The ladybug belongs to the beetle family, Coccinellidae. While bugs have needle-like mouths and a primarily liquid diet, beetles can chew and munch on insect varieties and plants. Another notable difference between the two is that bugs have soft or no wings, while beetles have hard wings. Due to these differences, some entomologists stick to calling them lady beetles or Coccinellids.
Did you know that the ladybug has a lifespan of a year? This process starts with the ladybug laying a batch of yellow eggs. Typically, this will occur on branches close to food sources, like aphids.
The eggs then hatch as larvae. This typically occurs within four to ten days, after which the ladybug larvae spend about three weeks feeding. Since they can’t travel far at a young age, the larvae feed on aphids nearby.
After three weeks, the ladybug goes into the pupa stage. Here, they undergo an extreme transformation and develop into the ladybug as we know it. They emerge as adults from the pupa stage, which can take two weeks or less. The fully grown insect comes in different types or varieties. The adults live for about a year.
Although they come in various types, all ladybug species possess large and rounded protective shells on their backs. These hard protective shells, also known as elytra, serve multiple functions. On the one hand, they protect the insect’s fragile wings when it’s not flying. On the other hand, a ladybug's hard shell also helps protect its organs.
The elytra are a type of changed forewing that opens and closes on command. This depends on whether the ladybug is flying or landing on surfaces. Apart from preserving the organs inside the little body of the insect, the shells also warn predators and therefore protect the animals.
This one is rather an unusual fact; however, have you ever wondered where the ‘lady’ comes from in their name? We can trace this to the legend of the Middle Ages.
According to the story, European crops were plagued by pests during this period. Due to this unforeseen incident, the farmers began praying to the blessed lady, Virgin Mary, to save their crops.
Not long after, they began seeing beneficial ladybugs and noticed that their crops were saved. The ladybugs were eating all the aphids and other damaging insect species. Rooted in gratitude, the farmers started referring to these beetles or insect-eating birds as “our lady’s birds” or “our lady’s beetles.” In Germany, people refer to them as Marienkafer, meaning Mary beetles.
One of the shocking facts about ladybugs is that they sometimes eat their kind. In cases of a shortage of food supply, ladybugs will feed on soft-bodied siblings they come across.
The average ladybug, somewhat unladylike, can chew on recently molted larvae or newly emerged adults. When a ladybug runs out of protein, the pupae can also serve as a source of protein.
A single ladybug can lay as many as 1000 eggs during a single season. However, not all these eggs become adults. When food is scarce, the female ladybug may lay infertile eggs to provide for her young ladybugs.
It’s easy to imagine a baby ladybug resembling an adult one, only in a smaller and cuter form. However, what you may not know is that these odd creatures take on a different shape altogether.
When they hatch out of the eggs, ladybug larvae resemble miniature alligators. Like alligators, they have spiny bodies and long pointed abdomens. They also possess legs that protrude from their sides. During this period, the larvae consume a lot of aphids for their growth and development. This stage precedes the pupa stage, which precedes the development into adulthood.
As far back as ancient times, various cultures have regarded the ladybug as a sign of good luck.
In Belgium, some believe that a lady receives good luck from a ladybug when the insect crawls across the lady’s hand. When it happens, the Belgians regard it as a sign indicating that she’ll get married shortly after the occurrence.
In ancient France, people believed that the ladybug carried healing effects where it landed. This was mainly when the insect landed on a sick person. The people believed that it would cure the ailments of such a person, making them feel well and strong again.
Although we associate the ladybug with bright summer days, these animals can also survive the winter months. When the winter season comes around, ladybugs in colder regions often go into hibernation mode. When they notice that aphids are beginning to disappear, it indicates that the weather is changing. This prompts these animals to flock together to reproduce before slipping into hibernation.
To survive, they go into rest mode and often cuddle together in groups. Species, like the harlequin ladybug, keep warm by entering people’s homes. They come together in large numbers and rest in dark crevices within the house.
The spots on a ladybug aren't only for beautification purposes. They also serve as a warning to predators, thereby protecting the insect from predation.
The bright colors and spots warn would-be predators that the insect is toxic and tastes horrible. Apart from their colors, another one of the ladybug defenses is the foul-smelling blood they emit. This yellow liquid comes from their leg joints, leaving yellow stains on the surface below. This liquid is toxic to various ladybug predators, protecting these little creatures from harm. They also have a third defense mechanism which is to play dead.
Since the ladybug feeds on aphids and other plant-feeding insect types, many farmers try to incorporate them on their land as pest control. As stated earlier, a ladybug can consume as many as 5000 insect types in its lifetime. This natural diet serves many farm and garden areas since they serve as predators to pests that damage plants.
Ladybugs can sometimes be garden pests. Although most of them consume insect species, others are herbivorous. As a result, they feed on plants in garden settings.
The Mexican bean beetle and the squash beetle are common plant-feeding ladybird beetles. The Mexican bean beetle eats garden beans. Occasionally, it feeds on soybeans. This species has an orange body and eight black spots covering each wing. On the other hand, the squash beetle has seven spots and infests pumpkins, squash, and cantaloupe.
Adult ladybugs are some of the most beautiful little beetles. Coming in various brightly colored bodies, it’s no surprise that people adore these creatures. You'll find these facts fascinating if you’ve always wanted to know more about these little creatures.
Saeed, K., Khattak, M., Khan, F., Naz, F., & Akhtar, N. (2016, October 31). Morphological Characteristics of Ladybird Beetles (Coccinellidae: Coleoptera) of District Buner, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.