In this month's pest profile, we're looking at ladybugs. These little hard-shelled creatures, best known for their red bodies and black spots, are harmless to humans and helpful to gardeners.
But did you know ladybugs aren't actually bugs? That’s right - they're beetles. In fact, in some regions, they're even called lady beetles or ladybird beetles.
Legend has it that the "lady" in the name ladybug dates back to the Middle Ages. Stories say aphids were damaging farmers' crops. After the farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help, the ladybugs arrived and ate all the aphids. From then on, farmers referred to the insects as "Our Lady's beetles."
There are about 5,000 different species of ladybugs in the world and about 450 in the United States. In addition to being red with black spots, some ladybugs are yellow, orange, brown, pink, or black. Some ladybugs don't have spots at all, and some have spots that look more like stripes. The spots on ladybugs serve a bigger purpose and aren't just for looks alone. They are meant to warn attackers. When ladybugs are startled, they'll emit a foul-smelling blood from their joints. This yellow liquid is toxic to several predators like birds and small mammals. When all else fails, ladybugs will even play dead until a predator is gone.
Similar to butterflies, ladybugs go through four stages before they reach their adult form. Baby ladybugs don't look like their adult counterparts at all. Their long, spiny larvae actually look like little alligators. In their final phase, ladybugs become adults and their wings appear. These wings stay hidden most of the time under their outer shell since they're significantly larger than their entire body. Once they reach their adult form, a ladybug's life span is only about a year long.
Ladybugs hibernate in the winter. When aphids begin to disappear, ladybugs will flock together to reproduce before entering hibernation. This hibernation can last as long as nine months in some parts of the world. Here in North Carolina, we see ladybugs most of the year with their hibernation only lasting a few months. Then, ladybugs will re-emerge when it's spring and there are insects to eat.
Speaking of, let’s talk about their diet. Ladybugs mostly eat aphids and various insects. Some will even eat up to 5,000 insects during their lifetime. When necessary, ladybugs may even eat their own eggs. Female ladybugs lay as many as 1,000 eggs during a single season, yet not all of those eggs make it to adulthood. When food is scarce, ladybugs will actually lay infertile eggs to feed their offspring when they hatch.
In most cultures, ladybugs are considered good luck. For example, in France, it's believed that ladybugs can cure a person's ailments if one lands on you. In Belgium, it's believed that if a ladybug crawls across a woman's hand, she will get married shortly after the encounter.
At Pestech of Greenville, we will often recommend that you leave ladybugs alone if they’re in your garden as they are a source of protection for your plants and flowers. They offer more help than harm! However, if you’re noticing ladybugs in your home, give us a call. We can help you identify entry points so you can prevent future opportunities for ladybugs, and other bugs and pests, from getting inside.
Pestech of Greenville is always here to help with all your pest control and prevention needs. Give us a call at 252-353-4760 or email PestechOfGreenville@hotmail.com to get started.