Did you know that ladybugs are known as lady beetles in Europe? So, are ladybugs beetles or bugs? Let’s clear up the mystery for you.
The native ladybug is one of the most loved bugs out there due to its beauty and status as a beneficial insect.
However, is it actually a bug at all? Originally named ladybird in Europe, its name was Americanized to the ladybug and lady beetle in North America.
While people often use the terms “beetle” and “bug” synonymously, if you love to study insects, you probably know that the two are different.
It might make you wonder whether ladybugs count as beetles or bugs, and this article will sate your curiosity.
What is a Bug?
Before we get to your question, let’s make sure which creepy crawlies actually count as bugs.
Although the word “bug” is thrown around quite a bit in place of “insects” or “beetles”, it refers to only one specific type of critter.
True bugs belong to the order Hemiptera, characterized by hard forewings that are translucent at the edges but dark where they’re in contact with the body.
They also feature long, segmented antennae and straw-shaped mouths used for feeding.
Bugs usually have two wings and no teeth, and three pairs of legs like any other insect.
What is a Beetle?
Beetles are scientifically classified in the order of Coleoptera – the largest order among insects.
So far, we have identified more than 350,000 species of beetles around the world and over 30,000 in the US.
Although both bugs and beetles have toughened forewings, the latter is thicker and harder.
Known as elytra, these hardened wings serve as protective shields over the membranous hind wings that beetles use for flight.
Unlike bugs, beetles have teeth or other chewing mouthparts, and their antennae have more than twice the number of segments (around 11).
What Is The Difference Between A True Bug and a Beetle?
While we have covered most of the points above, let us summarize the key differences again for your benefit:
Not all bugs have wings, and the winged ones have only two partially thickened wings without any protective covering.
On the other hand, beetles can have four wings. The forewings are thick and hardened – unsuitable for flying.
Underneath them lies a pair of soft hindwings that the beetles use to fly around.
Beetles have chewing mouthparts that they can use to eat solid plant or animal matter. Bugs lack this feature and are thus incapable of chewing.
Instead, they have long needle-like mouthparts designed to suck out liquids (like plant sap).
As mentioned earlier, bugs and beetles don’t share the same feeding habits. While bugs mostly survive on nectar, sap, and other plant matter, beetles are usually omnivores.
So, Is The Ladybug a Bug or a Beetle…?
As mentioned earlier, several beetles are commonly mistaken for bugs. Ladybugs are one of them, too.
Although their name indicates otherwise, ladybugs belong to the Coleoptera order of insects.
Like any other beetle, their membranous hind wings remain covered by their tough elytra when they’re not in flight.
Another important characteristic to consider is that bugs are primarily herbivores, while beetles can feed on both plant and insect matter.
With their strong reputation as aphid hunters, ladybugs clearly fall into the second category.
Interesting Aside: How Did Ladybugs Get Their Name?
The ladybird beetles have an interesting history behind their name. It began in Britain, where farmers prayed to Virgin Mary to protect their crops from pests.
Eventually, the crops were saved by ladybugs that came over and devoured the pests in large numbers.
Believing the ladybugs to be an answer to their prayers, the farmers begin to refer to them as “Our Lady’s bird.”
With time, the name evolved into “ladybird”. These bugs have a similar history lie in other European countries like Germany, France, and Russia.
When introduced in North America, the beetles underwent a further change of name and came to be known as ladybugs.
Other Common Beetles
Now that you understand that bugs and beetles differ in several ways, you might be curious about which other common insects count as beetles.
While the list is simply too long to put down, here are some of the most common beetles that you’re likely to come across:
You’re likely familiar with fireflies, which are quite distinguished due to their ability to produce flashes of light.
Just like ladybugs not being true bugs, fireflies aren’t flies either – they’re a family of elateroid beetles.
Emerald ash borers
Watch out for these pests if you have any ash trees. Characterized by small, elongated, and shiny green bodies, they caused heavy damage to the said tree species.
These common pantry pests resemble bugs with their elongated snouts. However, they also have chewing mouthparts and beetles.
These beetles live under rocks and are extremely common. Although their appearance varies, they are usually black with elongated bodies.
These beetles are usually yellow with black stripes or spots. The spotted ones closely resemble yellow ladybugs, but they’re major garden pests and can cause significant damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does a ladybug turn into a beetle?
If you mean a ladybug larva, yes, it turns into a beetle. Ladybugs aren’t bugs; they’re a species of beetles.
During the pupal stage, ladybug larvae undergo complete metamorphosis to transform into beetles with hard forewings and chewing mouthparts.
Why are ladybugs beetles?
Their name makes it easy to mistake ladybugs for bugs rather than beetles, but it’s quite the opposite in reality.
Despite having the word “bug” in their name, ladybugs aren’t true bugs.
Rather, all their characteristics identify them as beetles – the thickened forewings, the chewing mouthparts, and the insectivorous diet.
What does it mean if a ladybug lands on you?
Lady beetles are widely considered a symbol of good luck. Many cultures believe that anything touched by a ladybug is going to improve.
Similarly, it’s believed that if a ladybug lands on you, you have good luck and good fortune coming your way.
Are lady beetles harmful?
Don’t be alarmed if you see thousands of ladybugs clustering up for the winter – they pose no threat.
Moreover, they’re beneficial insects and can protect your garden from garden pests like aphids and scale insects.
Some species, like the Asian beetle (also known as Asian Ladybug or Asian Lady Beetle), can potentially trigger allergic reactions.
In total, there are over 5,000 species of lady beetles around the globe.
The seven-spotted ladybug that came from Europe is the most common in North America, but you can find several native species too.
Both the adult beetles and the larvae of this family are good to have in your garden and can wreak havoc against the aphid population.
We hope this article has fulfilled your curiosity about ladybugs and you enjoyed reading it.