Finding ladybugs in your garden in a good thing! Ladybugs are a group of beetles also known as Ladybird beetles or Lady beetles. They are small oval insects ranging in colors from yellow, orange and red with black dots on their bodies. There are even some that are entirely black. They have black eyes, heads and antennae. Like other insects, Ladybugs, have an exoskeleton which protects their body and is made up of three parts; the head, thorax and abdomen. They are flying insects and their wings move very quickly, similar to hummingbirds, and can beat up to eighty-five times per second. There are over five thousand different types of Ladybugs in the world; over five hundred in the U.S. alone. Ladybugs can eat over five thousand aphids in it’s lifetime, which averages about one year, although, they can live up to three years. Some Ladybugs release a bad smell which helps keep predators away. Also, their bright colors help protect them because many other insects with this coloring are poisonous and predators avoid them. Ladybugs have four life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult.
The female Ladybug is larger than the males and can lay fifty to three hundred eggs at a time. The eggs look like little orange or yellow ovals and take three to five days to hatch.
Ladybug larvae have six legs and are usually blue-black with orange spots. They look nothing like adult Ladybugs and are often mistaken as garden pests. The larvae take two to three weeks before the pupate into adult Ladybugs.
Ladybugs are beneficial insects to have in our gardens. They help defend it from pests by eating crop damaging insects. They eat aphids, fruit flies, thripes, mites, mealy bugs, scale, leaf hoppers and other plant-sucking insects. They can eat up to seventy-five aphids per day. Ladybugs are often used in organic gardening because they help the farmer avoid using pesticides. They will continue to eat garden pests until they are gone, meanwhile laying their own eggs in the process. The new larvae hatch and the cycle continues.
Besides eating garden pests, Ladybugs also eat pollen. If you want to attract them to your garden then you need to look for certain types of flowering plants which they like to eat pollen from. These include such plants as dill, cilantro, yarrow, wild carrot, angelica, cosmos, geraniums and dandelions. Once you start seeing them in your garden, you will want to cease using insecticides so you don’t kill them or their larvae. Also, that will leave the aphids and other garden pests for them to eat. They will also need water, so be sure and water your garden on a daily basis, at least just a bit.
Ladybugs not only protect our gardens by eating pests, but they are beautiful insects and enjoyable to watch. Many cultures view them as lucky and any gardener who finds them in their garden can confirm that they are!
Photo by Jeremy Vandel
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