Ladybugs are among some of the best-loved insects in the world. They are brightly colored beetles that have been the symbol of good in mythology. Ladybugs have even traveled into space!
Ladybugs, also known, as "lady beetles" or "ladybirds" are loved both for their beauty and for their usefulness in the garden. It is ironic that the ladybug is sometimes called the ladybird, since the ladybug's primary predators are birds. Ladybugs are relatively non-aggressive insects and will usually play dead when they perceive a threat. In the wild the ladybug commonly eats what many people consider garden pests. Ladybugs and their larvae feed regularly on aphids, mites and mealybugs. Adult ladybugs can eat an astonishing 50 aphids a day! Younger individuals eat about half that amount. Some ladybugs have also been known to eat honeydew, nectar, and pollen on occasion. There are other species of ladybug that prefer fungal spores to insects as their primary diet. During winter months, when temperatures fall and food becomes less common, some ladybugs will enter a period called "diapause", where they go into a period of little to no activity. During this time, the ladybug will cease to develop. Normal development will resume in the spring. The ladybug is one of the few insects that bring about a happy image to most people's minds. They are common in children's literature as well as in song. Ladybugs are depicted in fabrics that are used to decorate a variety of things. The presence of a ladybug is usually a good indication that spring has arrived.
There are over five thousand different ladybug species throughout the globe! The ladybug is relatively small and measures anywhere from .3 millimeters in length to 10 millimeters, depending on the species. The average ladybug will usually measure between four and eight millimeters long. They have oval shaped bodies and are usually an orange to red color with black spots, or in some cases they are black with red spots. Immatures will have darker more clearly defined spots than older individuals. Some species of ladybug are entirely dark, while others may have stripes instead of spots. The heads and legs of most ladybugs are retractable. Ladybugs have six legs, with three on each side. They have segmented antennae that usually have 11 segments. Some species of ladybug secrete oils from their joints. It is theorized that these oils serve as a defensive mechanism. Ladybugs all have functional wings. Some of the most common ladybug varieties include the Two Spotted Ladybug, the Seven Spotted Ladybug, and the Thirteen Spotted Ladybug. As is the case with many insects, the ladybug undergoes several different stages in its life. It begins as an egg and then develops into larvae. From the larval stage they enter into the pupal stage and then finally emerge as adults.
Ladybugs are found in a wide range of habitats and are common across the globe. They can be found in gardens, forests, fields, grasslands, and occasionally they are seen inside the house. In 1999 NASA sent four ladybugs into space with aphids. Researchers were interested in studying how the aphids would escape the ladybugs in zero gravity. The ladybug was triumphant and it survived its perilous journey into space! Interest in ladybugs goes back several centuries in Europe. Some mythology holds that the ladybug has supernatural powers!