Lady beetles, also known as ladybird beetles or ladybugs, are beneficial insects which help control many pests. These tiny predators are usually very welcome in gardens because ladybug larvae and adults eat aphids, mealybugs, and mites (which are garden pests). Ladybug larvae can eat about 25 aphids a day; adults can eat over 50.
The adult is generally orange with black spots on the wing covers.
Ladybugs are small, oval-shaped winged insects. These shiny insects are usually red with black spots or black with red spots on the wing covers.
The number of spots identifies the type of ladybug. Most ladybugs are less than 1/4 inch (4-8 mm) long. As ladybugs age, the color of the spots fade.
The ladybug, like all beetles, undergoes a complete metamorphosis during its life. Female ladybugs lay tiny eggs, usually laid in a small yellow clusters under a leaf or stem.
Within a week, the eggs hatch into orange and black larvae, tiny alligator shaped insects.
The larvae that hatches from the egg is small and long and has 6 legs. As it rapidly grows, the larva molts (sheds its skin) several times. At 3 to 4 weeks old, after reaching full size, the larvae attaches itself to a plant leaf or stem (by its “tail”). The larval skin then splits down the back, exposing the pupa.
After about one more week, the young adults emerge, ready to feed.
There are about 5,000 different species of ladybugs throughout the world.
Like all insects, ladybugs have:
- 6 jointed legs (arranged as 3 pairs)
- one pair of antennae
- an exoskeleton made of chitin (a type of strong protein that also forms our hair and fingernails)
- a three-part body consisting of the:
- head (which has the mouthparts, compound eye, and antennae)
- thorax (the middle section which is where the 3 pairs of legs and the pairs of wings attach)
- abdomen (which holds the excretory and reproductive organs and most of the digestive system)