How Long Do Ladybugs Live? Surprising Facts

Did you know that ladybugs can survive the winter, unlike many other insects? Let’s look at how long do ladybugs live.

Ladybugs – those cute, red, dome-shaped bugs with black spots make nice pets for those who love raising insects. 

In case you’re planning to keep some ladybugs at your home, you might wonder how long they’re going to live. 

While these bugs generally have a lifespan of about a year, it varies depending on the exact species.

Let’s look at the question in more detail.

How Long Do Ladybugs Live

How Long Do They Live?

Mature ladybugs, i.e., adults emerging from the pupal stage, live about a year. This is in addition to the couple of months they spend reaching this stage. 

One of the biggest factors determining a ladybug’s lifespan is its ability to hibernate. 

Ladybugs are cold-blooded insects and cannot survive the winter months without hibernating somewhere warm.

How do Ladybugs Survive Winter?

Like many insect species out there, ladybugs overwinter by hibernating. They look for protected places underneath tree bark, inside cracks and crevices, or homes. 

Once they find a suitable place to hibernate, they release chemical signals to inform and attract other ladybugs. Ultimately, they huddle up in large numbers to overwinter together.

As for food, they have fat reserves built up in advance that keep them alive in winter. 

You must have heard about the voracious appetite of ladybugs in summer, right? It allows them to gather extra fat and store it for the cold months.

Ladybug Life Cycle

Before you keep any type of bug as a pet, you should have an understanding of its life cycle. 

Only with detailed knowledge of the stages that it’s going to undergo can you take proper care of it. Here’s an overview of a ladybug’s life cycle:

How Long Do Ladybugs Live

Mating

We mentioned earlier that ladybugs stick together in large numbers when they hunker down for the winter. 

Apart from increasing their chances of survival, this also allows them to mate more easily. 

Once spring settles in and the temperatures start to warm up, the ladybugs end their hibernation and wake up. 

Living in such large colonies, they can start mating right away without having to go out in search of their significant others.

Mating among ladybugs has its own charms and rituals. For example, the males pick out females through a five-step action.

The males first come near a potential mate, then stop to watch, then examine the female more closely, and then go on to mount, and then “do the deed.”

Females are coy, and ones that are not ready for copulation (such as those who have mated recently, or are not mature) will reject the male during the rituals.

On the other hand, those females who are ready and willing give out both visual and pheromonal cues, attracting as many males as possible around them. 

How Long Do Ladybugs Live

In the end, though, the males get to mate with several females in a day.

While some ladybugs lay their eggs within a week of mating, there are others who store the sperm for two to three months before fertilizing. 

The breeding season itself may last up to a couple of months. This is why the time for laying eggs may vary from early spring to summer.

Cross-breeding between different ladybug species is quite rare. Firstly, most of them seek out mates of the same species anyway. 

Secondly, it can be physically impossible or very difficult for ladybugs of different species to mate due to a unique ‘lock-and-key’ system in their genitalia.

Eggs and Larvae

A female ladybug can lay a large number of eggs – as many as 200 or more in a single sitting. 

Depending on the species, they can potentially lay more than a thousand eggs throughout their lifespan. 

Ladybugs usually lay their yellow egg clusters near aphid colonies.  It takes only about a week for the eggs to hatch and the larvae to emerge.

The larvae start feeding on aphids immediately after hatching and grow through four molting stages, or instars. 

This feeding frenzy goes on for about 20 days, after which they get ready for the pupal stage.

How Long Do Ladybugs Live

Pupae

A ladybug larva is black and spiny and looks completely different from the adults. It’s during the pupa stages that they transform into the cute bugs that we all know and love. 

Yellow in color with black spots like adult ladybugs, the pupae are easy to identify. 

They build their pupae on leaves and other plant matter in protected places. It takes them around two weeks to emerge as adults.

Adult Ladybugs

Finally, the beautiful adult ladybugs that you’re familiar with emerge from the pupae at the end of the pupal stage. 

While all adult ladybugs feature the black-spotted shells they’re well-known for, the pattern of the spots may vary. The primary color of the shell can range from yellow to red too.

They live for about a year, feeding on soft-bodied insects and insect eggs in summer and hibernating in winter. 

Aphids are their favorite food, although other insects, like scale insects and spider mites, are preferred food sources too. 

Their spotted shell and the unpleasant smell they release when threatened help them ward away predators. 

These adult ladybugs mate in spring after overwintering through the cold months, and the cycle repeats all over again.

How Long Do Ladybugs Live

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long do ladybugs live indoors?

While ladybugs indeed make good pets, they cannot survive very long indoors. 
You can raise them at home, but you’ll have to release them about a week after pupation unless you want to end up dead ladybugs. 
In captivity, ladybugs usually don’t survive longer than a couple of weeks.

2. Is it OK to keep a ladybug as a pet?

If you find the cuteness of these bugs to be too overwhelming, feel free to keep one as a pet. 
Besides being relatively harmless except for pinching if they feel threatened, ladybugs also require minimal care. This makes them nice pets for kids as well.

3. How long do ladybugs live without food?

This depends on the ladybug species and its current condition. If it’s close to winter and the bug has already built up a large reserve of stored fat, it can last several months. 
On the other hand, a ladybug may also die if it doesn’t get any food for a couple of days.

4. How do you know how old a ladybug is?

It’s impossible to guess the age of a ladybug unless you know when you hatched or pupated. 
There’s a common misconception regarding this matter – many believe that you can get a ladybug’s age by counting its spots. 
However, this is untrue, and the number of spots simply varies between different species of ladybugs.

Wrap Up

As it is, the one-year lifespan of a ladybug is rather short for a pet. The fact that you can have them for only about a couple of months before having to release them doesn’t make it any better, either. 

Still, it’s a good idea to keep these cute bugs in your garden, and you can always raise a new generation every year. They’re excellent natural pest control and certainly pleasing to the eye.

We hope we’ve been able to address your queries regarding the lifespan of a ladybug, how it survives the winter, and what it’s lifecycle is like.

Thank you for reading!

Authors

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  • Bugman

    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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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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