Scientifically known as Coccinellidae septempunctata, ladybugs are insects from the Coccinellidae family with an average lifespan of 1 year. You can find them in suburbs, along rivers, forests, and grasslands worldwide. For many people, ladybugs are adorable and easy on the eye, aside, of course, from their defensive pungent smell.
However, these insects present more than just beautiful colors and patterns. The fact that they majorly feed on aphids makes them a farmer’s darling. The insects are considered phytophagous (pests of plants). Read on to discover more ladybug facts.
1. Ladybugs Are Not Bugs
Even though they are recognized as ladybugs, that is where the comparison with bugs ends. Ladybugs are actually beetles. They belong to the Cucujoidea superfamily, which is generally related to the beetles family. Others within the same category include Endomychidae (fungus beetles) and Corylophidae.
Depending on the species, ladybugs are oval, with lengths not exceeding 10mm. They have wings, blood, antennae (for tasting and smelling), and mandibles for chewing food.
2. They Were Named After the Virgin Mary
It is believed that ladybugs are native to Europe, where they found their names. Legend has it that at one time, European farmers had their plants plagued by pests and did not have a viable solution. They prayed to the Blessed Lady, the Virgin Mary, for a solution.
Miraculously, lady beetles appeared and ate all the pests, saving the farmers’ plants. There, the red and black beetles got the name “ladybug.” Germans call them “Marienkafer,” meaning “Mary beetles.”
3. Ladybugs Undergo Metamorphosis
Like most beetle species, ladybugs undergo metaphomosis from the egg stage to adulthood. After hatching, they metamophosize into larvae (plural) before evolving. Ladybug larvae usually resemble young alligators. It isn’t easy to imagine that those are young ladybugs at that stage.
Ladybug larvae feed on aphids and take about a month to morph into the next stage. Generally, ladybugs have about a year to complete the process from egg to adulthood.
4. They Can Eat Their Own Eggs
Ladybugs prefer laying their eggs on leaves’ underside. A female lady beetle can lay up to 1,000 eggs in a breeding season. However, when the weather/ environment is unfavorable, and food is scarce, ladybugs are known to eat their eggs and larvae.
Sometimes, the females may intentionally lay unfertilized eggs to regulate the species’ population. Cruel as it may sound, eating their eggs is occasionally necessary for survival. They are omnivores.
5. Over 5,000 Ladybug Species Are Available
Sometimes referred to as lady beetles, there are more than 5,000 species of ladybugs, with more than 450 found in North America. Even though they come in different colors and patterns, the most common is the 7-spot ladybird, originally from Europe. Others include Asian lady beetle, two-spot ladybird, and Anatis ocellata.
6. Some Cultures Consider Ladybugs A Sign of Good Luck
Some cultures and even religions believe that ladybugs are a sign of good luck. They include Norse mythology, some Native American tribes, some Christians, and ancient Asia inhabitants. Those who believe this say that if a ladybug lands on you, the amount of spots the species has foretells the number of fortune years you will have.
7. Ladybugs Have Unique Defense Mechanisms
While the ladybugs’ red and black spots might appear easy on the eye for humans, it’s usually a sign of “please keep off.” They are a sign to their predators that they are toxic and not worth pursuing. Ladybugs also have hemolymph on their knees, releasing a foul odor to keep away their predators.
Even in the larvae stage, young ladybugs can emit alkaloids from their abdomens to deter their predators. Generally, entomologists have discovered that insect-eating birds and animals do not like preying on targets with red and black pigments.
8. Ladybugs Are Significant to Farmers/Humans
Ladybugs offer a perfectly natural method of doing away with farm pests such as aphids. The insects are known bug feeders, consuming a lot in their lifetime. Chemical insecticides are not environmentally friendly, so the ladybug option is much welcomed.