Planning to breed ladybugs in your garden? But how do ladybugs mate, and how can you help along the process for a successful mating?
The insect world is full of wonders – not only in its diversity but also in the way different insect species live through their life cycles.
Their reproductive processes are particularly diverse and interesting, and it’s quite amazing how everything goes on inside their tiny bodies.
If you’re trying to learn how ladybugs mate, you’ve visited the right page for it. If you’re trying to start a large population of ladybugs in your garden, you’ll find this helpful.
How Do Ladybugs Mate?
So, suppose you have a bunch of ladybugs in your home or garden, and you want them to lay eggs for a new generation of larvae.
You just have to put the males and the females together and get them to mate, right?
Well, it’s not that simple; there are a few challenges along the way. Here’s everything you need to know:
1. Identifying the males and females
Identifying a male and a female ladybug in the first place and putting them together for mating is the biggest challenge.
They look very similar – to such an extent that even ladybugs themselves often fail to identify each other’s sexes.
It’s quite common for male ladybugs to mount other males before they realize the mistake accidentally.
In some species of ladybugs, such as the three-banded ladybug, males and females may have slight differences in their markings.
For the rest, the only way you can identify male and female ladybugs is by their size – female ladybugs are a little bigger.
It would be easier to put several ladybugs together and let them figure out who to mate with.
2. Ladybug courtship
During the mating season (that’s usually immediately after winter), female ladybugs attract males by releasing pheromones to reveal their location through chemical signals.
This helps to solve the problem mentioned earlier. Once they have found a mate, it’s time for the courtship.
Unlike some of the other insect species with elaborate and interesting courtship rituals, ladybugs don’t have much.
The males do a five-step thing where they go near the females, watch them, then inspect them, and try to mount.
However, it might take male ladybugs some time to woo the newly hatched females. Moreover, females who have recently mated or are ovipositing resist males trying to mount them.
Now, let’s find out about the most crucial stage of mating – copulation. Male ladybugs mount the females from behind to get this done.
This can be a bit challenging as the females are larger than the males. Besides, the male would also have to get a footing over the female’s curved and shiny cuticle.
The males use their legs to grasp the edges of their mate’s elytra for additional support while they copulate.
The copulation process is exceptionally long among ladybugs – it lasts up to two hours or even longer.
It is hypothesized that male ladybugs gain a genetic advantage by extending the process for as long as possible.
Once they’re done, and the male has deposited his semen, both ladybugs would go off again in search of new mating partners.
Such a long mating duration puts both ladybugs at risk. They lie vulnerable to birds and other predators the whole time.
If you see ladybugs mating in your garden, try to put up a protective cover over them to keep them safe.
Quite interestingly, female ladybugs can hold the semen inside themselves for weeks or even months and fertilize only when they wish to.
They mate with as many males as possible to create a higher genetic diversity before they fertilize. Creating a variety of gene combinations enhances the survivability of the offspring.
The Lifecycle of a Ladybug
Now that we know about the entire mating process of ladybugs, we need an understanding of their lifecycle.
Ladybugs go through four different stages – egg, larva, pupa, and adult. It starts with the pregnant ladybug carrying the eggs for about seven days and then depositing them.
Ladybug eggs are yellow and bean-shaped. Female ladybugs tend to lay their eggs on plants close to aphid clusters.
This ensures that the newborn larvae will have a rich food source available as soon as they emerge. It takes the eggs about two to ten days to hatch.
This timespan depends on different environmental variables, especially the temperature.
Ladybug larvae look nothing like adult ladybugs. With elongated bodies and bumpy exoskeletons, they look somewhat similar to miniature alligators.
Contrary to adult ladybugs, which have black spots on brightly colored bodies, many ladybug larvae have bright spots on black bodies.
The larval stage lasts around a couple of wings, during which the ladybugs molt through four instars.
With a single ladybug larva capable of devouring 350 to 400 aphids in two weeks, they are far more effective at pest control than adult ladybugs.
Their seemingly insatiable appetite, together with the fact that they hunt a variety of insects like scales, mites, adelgids, etc., makes them notable predators of garden pests.
At the end of the two-week period, when the larvae have finished molting, they get ready to pupate.
Ladybug larvae usually attach themselves to leaf surfaces before entering the pupal stage.
The shape of a ladybug pupa is very similar to that of a shrimp – a curved cylindrical body with a ribbed outer body.
Ladybug pupae are usually bright orange or yellow, with several black spots.
They undergo complete metamorphosis during this stage, which can last anywhere from 7 to 15 days.
4. Adult ladybugs
When the adult ladybugs emerge from the pupa, they usually have a pale yellow body. These newly emerged adults are known as Imagos, and have soft exoskeletons.
It takes the cuticle several hours to harden up and change to the deep and bright colors that we generally associate with ladybugs.
Adult ladybugs feed on the same soft-bodied insects as the larvae. Although they do not eat as much as their larvae, they still have a huge appetite and eat a large number of pests to store up extra fats for the winter.
In winter, they hibernate in sheltered spaces and survive on the stored fats.
It’s at the end of the hibernation stage that ladybugs finally mate. Since they overwinter in large clusters, ladybugs can start mating soon after they wake up.
They remain active in spring and continue feeding on pests until they lay eggs and eventually die. In total, the life cycle is almost a year long.
Can You Cross-Breed Different Ladybug Species?
If you have different species of ladybugs in your garden – say, native ladybugs and seven-spotted ladybugs, you might wonder if it’s possible to create a hybrid.
This can be a little challenging as lady beetles usually prefer to seek out and mate with only their own species.
The pheromones vary from one ladybug species to another, which can pose another challenge.
Besides, the genitalia (aedeagus) of a male ladybug would fit best with a female of the same species.
This works like a lock-and-key system and usually makes it very difficult for different ladybug species to mate.
However, although it’s rare, different species of ladybugs can breed together.
In some cases, the genitals of different species may fit well enough for them to mate, even if it isn’t the best fit.
Such hybridization has possibly occurred in nature already, and scientists are constantly trying to create better ladybug hybrids for more effective pest control too.
Can Ladybugs Transmit STDs While Mating?
Unfortunately, sexually transmitted diseases are a huge problem among ladybugs.
The mites living under the elytra and feeding on the host ladybug’s blood can move on to its mating partner, especially because the mating process is so exceptionally long.
Females getting infected by such mites end up delivering fewer and smaller eggs as a result of the mites draining their resources.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you tell if ladybugs are mating?
It’s quite easy to tell when two ladybugs are mating. The mating process is easy to notice and identify, as the male has to mount the female from behind.
Besides, ladybugs copulate for two hours or longer, which makes it hard to miss too.
How long are ladybugs pregnant?
After mating, female ladybugs lay their eggs on plants close to insects. This ensures that the larvae can feed on them. This period during which they carry eggs can last from anywhere between seven days to two to three months.
How do ladybugs have babies?
Ladybugs reproduce sexually, i.e., through mating between the males and the females, rather than cloning through asexual reproduction.
Each female ladybug mates with several males, storing their sperms to create a diverse gene pool over several weeks. When ready, they fertilize and lay eggs in a line or a cluster.
How long does it take for a ladybug to lay eggs after mating?
The time taken by ladybugs to lay eggs after mating varies and can sometimes be as little as seven days or as long as two to three months.
This is because the female ladybug doesn’t fertilize right away after mating. She waits to gather a diverse gene pool and find a suitable place to lay the eggs.
We hope you now have an in-depth idea of how these beneficial insects mate and reproduce.
Allowing them to live and lay eggs in your garden is undoubtedly a great idea.
A healthy population of ladybugs would keep your garden free of plant-damaging pests by eating up adult insects, larvae, and insect eggs.
Please utilize the potential of ladybugs in pest control to the fullest and keep your garden pest-free.
Thank you for reading!
Over the years, bug fans all over the world have sent us some wonderful pictures of the mating behaviors of these shiny red beetles.
Some are a bit funny, while others are quite detailed and several others just inquisitive about the process and what you can and cannot do to help the mating happen.
Read on and see for yourself!
Letter 1 – Joro Spider eats Ladybug
Spider from Korea: Golden Orb Web Spider?
I read that you’re swamped, so I apologize for making your day harder. I took some photos of this spider in southwestern South Korea. Looking through some other posts it sort of resembles a Golden Orb Web Spider found in China, but after googling it I couldn’t find any exact matches. It measured just under two inches (including legs). Here it is eating a ladybug. Thanks for your help!
Suncheon, South Korea
This is a relative of the Golden Silk Spider, Nephila clavipes, found in the southern portions of the U.S. It is Nephila clavata, and is known as the Joro Spider due to its Japanese name, joro-gumo. According to Wikipedia: “The spider can be found throughout Japan except Hokkaid?, in Korea ,Taiwan and China . Due to the large size as well as the bright, unique colors of the species of the female Nephila , the spider is well-favored in Japan.”
Letter 2 – Ladybug Larva
What kind of bug is this?? Location: Atlanta GA November 5, 2010 8:00 am Dear Bugman – This morning, I found this little scary bug on my neck while making the kids breakfast. Can you tell me what it is? It is about the size of my pinky nail in length but skinnier. Signature: Wimpy Dad Dear Wimpy Dad, We field so many identification requests for this creature and people are generally amazed to learn that this is the larval form of the familiar Lady Beetle or Ladybug.
Letter 3 – Head of a Cicada from Japan
Whow! Location: Osaka, Japan. Urban environment. September 23, 2010 11:59 am I was out at the playground with my daughter and she asked me what kind of bug this is. I had to tell her that i had no idea. I live in Osaka, Japan. This was taken Sept. 22nd at 1:30pm. It was on a fairly hot day. 30 degrees celsius with about 80% humidity. Hope you guys can help. Thanks! Signature: Ajen Dear Ajen, Because of metamorphosis, many creatures have physical transformations that confound the imagination. The pupa is the sedentary stage of transformation between the mobile larva and the often visible and recognizable adult. We are just taking a guess that this might be the pupa of a Lady Beetle, erroneously but popularly called a Lady Bug. Perhaps one of our readers will have an opportunity to scour the internet to verify or refute our suspicions. Correction Got it. That’s the head of a cicada. I’m looking at a specimen we have here at the nature center, and I’m sure of it. Though I don’t know what kind of cicada. Vince Rum Village Nature Center cicada head Location: Indiana September 24, 2010 3:00 pm The mystery pupa that someone sent is actually a cicada head. Here’s a pic I just took, showing the cicada head still attached to a cicada. Signature: Vince Thanks for the correction Vince. We feel a bit foolish, but we didn’t even enlarge the image this morning and we were in a rush to get to work, so we just plain didn’t look too closely.