Understanding the Ashy Grey Lady Beetle: A Concise Guide

The ashy gray lady beetle is a fascinating and beneficial insect that plays a crucial role in controlling pest populations in gardens and farms.

These beetles, scientifically known as Olla v-nigrum, are known for their distinctive gray or pinkish-gray color and insatiable appetite for aphids, making them a gardener’s best friend.

Adult ashy gray lady beetles are oval-shaped and measure about 1/6 to 1/4 inch long, making them easily distinguishable from other lady beetles.

They can be found across most of the United States and are particularly effective at preying on aphid populations in arboreal plants.

Ashy Grey Lady Beetle
Source: Sam KieschnickCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Common

The young larvae are fiercely spiky and can consume up to 400 aphids over a two- to three-week period before pupating.

A few key characteristics of the ashy gray lady beetle include:

  • Comes in two color forms: ashy-gray with black spots or shiny black with two red spots
  • Females lay about a dozen eggs per egg mass, which hatch in approximately three days
  • Adult beetles are known to prey on the eggs and larvae of other beetles and moths

By understanding the habits and features of the ashy gray lady beetle, gardeners and farmers can better appreciate the role these insects play in natural pest control and maintain a more balanced and healthy ecosystem.

Ashy Grey Lady Beetle Basics

Olla V-Nigrum

The Ashy Grey Lady Beetle, scientifically known as Olla V-Nigrum, is a beneficial insect that feeds on aphids and other pests.

Adults are typically 1/6 to 1/4 inch long, oval to rounded when viewed from above, and dome-shaped from the side.

Their thorax and wing covers can be gray or pinkish gray, with more black spots on them. In their larval stage, they appear as tiny, fiercely spiky creatures1.

Family Coccinellidae

Ashy Gray Lady Beetles are part of the family Coccinellidae, which encompasses lady beetles, ladybugs, or ladybird beetles2.

Here is a list of features and characteristics for this family:

  • Over 450 species found in North America
  • Mostly predatory insects
  • Beneficial for controlling pest populations, especially aphids
  • Both adults and larvae feed on pests
  • Colors range from black to pink, yellow, or red
  • Sizes vary, averaging 1/4 to 3/8 inches long

File:Olla v-nigrum 158311894.jpg
Source: Gene HCC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Suborder Polyphaga

Ashy Gray Lady Beetles belong to the suborder Polyphaga, which is the largest suborder of beetles3.

A comparison table highlighting differences between Olla V-Nigrum, Family Coccinellidae, and Suborder Polyphaga is provided below.

 Olla V-NigrumFamily CoccinellidaeSuborder Polyphaga
Size1/6 to 1/4 inch1/4 to 3/8 inchesVaried sizes
ColorGray or pinkish grayBlack to pink, yellow, or redWide range of colors
DietAphids and pestsMainly aphidsVaried diet depending on species
HabitatAcross most of the USNorth AmericaGlobal distribution

Habitat and Distribution

North America

The ashy gray lady beetle is found across most of the United States and southernmost parts of Canada.

Their primary habitat includes arboreal plants where they prey on aphids, beetle eggs, and larvae of moths1.

Central America

These beetles are also present in Central America2, however, their distribution range expands even further south.

Oceania

In Oceania, the ashy gray lady beetle has not been reported.

This could be due to differences in habitat and available prey, but further research is needed to confirm this.

Key Features

  • Found in North and Central America
  • Habitat includes arboreal plants
  • Prey on aphids, beetle eggs, and moth larvae

Appearance and Identification

Elytra

The ashy gray lady beetle (also known as ladybug or ladybird beetle) has a unique appearance.

Its elytra, or wing covers, can vary in color from gray to pinkish-gray.

They measure approximately 1/6 to 1/4 inch (4-6 mm) in length and have a rounded, oval shape when viewed from above.

The elytra are also dome-shaped (convex) when viewed from the side 1.

Source: Flickr, Username: K Schneider

Thorax

The thorax of the ashy gray lady beetle is another identifying feature.

It can have different patterns and colors, making it distinct from other ladybug species like Adalia bipunctata and Asian lady beetles.

The main characteristics include:

  • A unique pattern that varies in color and shape 2
  • A slightly smaller size compared to Adalia bipunctata and Asian lady beetles 3
FeatureAshy Gray Lady BeetleAdalia BipunctataAsian Lady Beetles
Elytra ColorGray or pinkish-grayRed or blackMulticolored
Elytra ShapeOval, dome-shapedSphericalDome-shaped
Thorax Pattern & ColorVariableTwo-spottedVariable
Size1/6 to 1/4 inchSlightly largerSlightly larger

To identify an ashy gray lady beetle, it is essential to observe the features of both the elytra and thorax carefully, considering these differences.

As opposed to Anatis labiculata, they are smaller and have a distinct elytra color 4.

Diet and Beneficial Aspects

Aphids

Ashy gray lady beetles are great allies for gardeners, as they have a strong appetite for aphids. These beetles consume:

  • Adults mainly feast on aphids
  • Larvae also devour aphids

Aphids are known for damaging crops, so by controlling their population, these beetles help both farmers and gardeners maintain healthier plants.

Scale Insects

Ashy gray lady beetles not only feed on aphids, but they also prey on scale insects.

Scale insects are another pest that can cause damage to various plants. By consuming these pests, ashy gray lady beetles provide:

  • Natural pest control
  • A reduction in the need for insecticides

These beneficial aspects are valuable to farmers, who aim to reduce pest populations without harming the environment or their crops.

Mites

In addition to aphids and scale insects, another prey of the ashy gray lady beetle are mites.

Mites can also cause harm to plants, so the lady beetles provide further beneficial services by preying on these creatures as well.

 AphidsScale InsectsMites
Ashy gray lady beetlesConsumeConsumeConsume

To sum it up, ashy gray lady beetles are beneficial insects that protect plant life by feeding on various pests such as aphids, scale insects, and mites.

They provide a natural and environmentally friendly solution for pest control in gardens and farms.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Larva

The ashy grey lady beetle’s life cycle begins with the larval stage. In this stage, the beetle feeds and grows. Some features of larvae include:

  • Predatory nature, feeding on aphids
  • Spiky appearance

Example: Larvae can often be observed openly on plant leaves and stems, consuming aphids to promote their growth.

Ashy Gray Lady Beetle (Olla v-nigrum) larva; San Pedro River Valley, Arizona. Source: Flickr Username:
Lon&Queta

Pupa

After larvae reach their maximum size, they enter the pupal stage. This is a transition period for development. Characteristics of the pupal stage:

  • Motionless, as they transform
  • Attached to a leaf or other substrate

During the pupal stage, the lady beetle’s body undergoes significant changes, preparing for the adult form.

Comparison of Larva and Pupa Stages

StageAppearanceMovementFeeding Activity
LarvaSpiky, elongatedActivePredatory
PupaRounded, compactNoneNone

Although brief, this information should provide a basic understanding of the life cycle and reproduction process of ashy grey lady beetles during the larva and pupa stages.

Dealing with Ashy Grey Lady Beetles

Nuisance and Prevention

Ashy grey lady beetles are generally considered harmless, but they can become a nuisance during the fall. To prevent them from entering your home:

  • Seal gaps around windows and doors
  • Install screens on vents and openings

These measures not only help keep ashy grey lady beetles out, but also other insects.

Ashy Gray Lady Beetle: Black Variation

Control Methods

If you already have ashy grey lady beetles indoors, a few methods can help control their presence:

  • Vacuum: Gently vacuum up the beetles and release them outdoors; this is a non-destructive, chemical-free method
  • Pheromone Traps: Use pheromone traps to attract and capture the beetles; keep in mind that these traps may also attract other beneficial insects
Control MethodProsCons
VacuumNon-destructive, chemical-freeCan be time-consuming
Pheromone TrapsEffective in attracting beetlesMay attract other beneficial insects

Remember, ashy grey lady beetles are rare and beneficial insects that only cause minor inconveniences.

It’s essential to handle them gently to maintain a healthy ecosystem. And who knows, having them around might bring some love and luck to your garden!

Are Ashy Gray Lady Beetles Dangerous?

No, ashy gray lady beetles (Olla v-nigrum) are not considered dangerous to humans.

They are actually beneficial insects in gardens and agricultural settings.

These beetles feed on aphids, which are harmful pests that can damage plants.

As natural predators of aphids, ashy gray lady beetles help control aphid populations and contribute to the overall health of plants.

They do not pose any harm to humans, pets, or structures, making them a valuable ally in natural pest control.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the ashy gray lady beetle, with its distinctive coloring and valuable role in pest control, proves to be a remarkable asset in maintaining the health of plants.

As natural predators of aphids, these beneficial insects contribute to the balance of ecosystems and gardens.

Their harmless nature to humans and other creatures makes them a welcome presence for gardeners seeking environmentally friendly solutions to aphid infestations.

Footnotes

  1. Ashy Gray Lady Beetle  2 3
  2. Ladybird Beetles or Ladybugs  2 3
  3. Suborder Polyphaga  2
  4. Lady Beetles – Cornell University 

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about ashy gray lady beetles. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Fifteen Spotted Lady Beetle

White Ladybug?
Location:  Michigan
August 25, 2010 10:18 am
I found this ladybug crawling on one of our kayaks in Michigan (not to worry, I moved it before I went out onto the water). I’ve never seen a white ladybug before, so I have to ask, what is it? Is is a species separate from red ladybugs, or some kind of albino insect?


(Also, I apologize if you receive multiple emails from me. I attempted to send this earlier, but the photograph may have been too large and it didn’t seem to send properly, so I cropped the image and tried again.)
Kevin

Ashy Gray Lady Beetle

Hi Kevin,
We believe this is an Ashy Gray Lady Beetle,
Olla v-nigrum (See BugGuide), though we would not discount it being another species.

Correction: November 23, 2010
WE just received numerous corrections of Lady Beetle identifications including this Fifteen Spotted Lady Beetle,
Anatis labiculata.  The Discover Life website has some nice matching photos.

Letter 2 – Multicolored Asian Ladybird Beetle: Unusual Variation

What’s this beetle?
Sat, Nov 8, 2008 at 3:58 PM
Unusual beetle found in our home. See attached photo.
Curious.
Mckinleyville, Humboldt County, California.

Unknown Ladybird
Unknown Ladybird

Hi Curious,
This is a Ladybird Beetle, and we thought it might be the dark form of the Ashy Gray Ladybird Beetle, Olla v-nigrum, but we no longer think that. There are other similarly marked Ladybirds.

You can read more about the Ashy Gray Ladybird on BugGuide. Perhaps a reader can correctly identify this species.

The lady beetle is a remarkable variation of the multicolored Asian lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis.  They just seem to have endless patterns….
Eric

Letter 3 – Ashy Gray Lady Beetle: Black Variation

Subject: a couple of strange bugs
Location: southern nevada
April 6, 2014 11:48 pm
okay bug number 1 we found playing wit the cat, we’re assuming it’s some kind of lady bug but we’re just curious.
bug number 2 is a bigger issue, it is the 25th of its kind to be found in one of our bedrooms within the last couple months. this bedroom also houses two cockatiels and two bearded dragons, if that could help with identifying it.
Signature: thank you!

Ashy Gray Lady Beetle:  Black Variation
Ashy Gray Lady Beetle: Black Variation

You are correct that this is a Lady Beetle, more specifically, an Ashy Gray Lady Beetle, Olla v-nigrum, in its black variation, which you can verify thanks to this image on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide

“Gray with black spots, or black with two red spots.  This species has two basic color variants that are strikingly different and I have seen little evidence of intergradation between the variants.”  Your other insect identification request is an Indian Meal Moth and this species infests stored grains.  It might have infested the cockatiel seed.

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    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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5 thoughts on “Understanding the Ashy Grey Lady Beetle: A Concise Guide”

  1. Yes, this is the invasive Asian Multicolored Lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis. Hybrid between the melanic morph called conspicua and common red, black-spotted form succinea. And emerged at low temperature.

    Reply
  2. I have a confluence of grey hexagonal-shaped beetle(?) that has been appearing in my bedroom since the weather has become cold. They don’t seem very frightened or aggressive when trapped and killed. What are these things?

    Reply

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