How To Recognize Ladybug Larva: Tiny Alligators in The Yard

Ladybugs leave a ton of eggs on garden plants, and the larvae hatch when the time comes right. You would want to know how to recognize ladybug larva if you are expecting some to hatch soon. This article will tell you all about them.

Ladybugs are beneficial insects that eat up plant pests and help farmers and gardeners grow their crops. 

While they eat up tree bark, fungi, mildew, leaves, and other parts of plants, they only lay eggs on the leaves. 

The eggs develop into larvae. These tiny critters have black bodies with bright markings and are easy to recognize if you know where to look. 

This article focuses on the story of these little creatures – what they look like and the life stages they go through before becoming the adult ladybugs we all know and love. 

How To Recognize Ladybug Larva
Lady Beetle Larva

What Do Ladybug Larvae Look Like?

A ladybug larva is about ½ inch long with an elongated and spiky body. 

The newly hatched larva looks like a tiny alligator with its black body covered in red, yellow, and orange markings. 

From a distance, most people might get intimidated seeing them. While the spikes on their back may scare some people, they are also the highlight of its body. 

However, there is nothing to be afraid of since ladybugs in the larval stage are entirely harmless to humans. 

They do not bite people or harm us in any way. They consume pests for several weeks until they reach the pupal stage. 

A larva can eat dozens of aphids in a single day and is even more powerful in pest control than adults.

The larvae have six legs attached to both sides of the thorax. The abdomen has nine parts, the last being its tale.

Their heads are well-developed, and mandibles are strong enough to eat up garden pests and plants. 

The larvae start eating the minute they come out of their egg. However, it takes a few weeks for the larvae to grow into adults after getting out of their cocoons. 

How To Recognize Ladybug Larva
American Lady Caterpillar

How Long Do They Live as Larvae? 

A typical ladybug lays thousands of eggs in the three-month time they have during spring. 

The larval stage starts about four days after the eggs are laid, but factors like temperature and environment may increase or decrease the hatching period. 

Sometimes it may go from seven days to even a month.

The larval stage starts the minute the organism comes out of the egg. 

What Do Ladybug Eggs Look Like? 

There are different species of ladybugs worldwide, so their eggs may look different. Most eggs are oval-shaped and about 0.04 inches in height but can be tinier. 

They can be found in different colors, including pale yellow, orange-red, white, and more. 

They are usually tightly clustered together on the undersides of leaves or flower pots. Most insect eggs are taller than they are wide, and ladybugs are no different. 

A typical ladybug lays at least 10 to 50 eggs in a single plant and ensures that it is infested with soft-bodied insects like aphids or scale insects. 

She also guards the plant and steers away predatory insects that may want to steal the larva’s food during this time. 

Female ladybugs lay both fertilized and unfertilized eggs in the cluster. Even if the larvae cannot find aphids, they can easily feed on the infertile eggs to survive for a few days.

Four Stages of Larva Life Cycle

Ladybug larvae go through four main instar stages before they develop into an adult. 

Once the larva is out, it is in its first instar. At this point, the nymph is restricted in its movements and spends most of its time acclimatizing and looking for food. 

The next task of the larva is to find food. Thankfully, female ladybugs always lay their eggs on leaves where food is already abundant. 

If by some accident, there is no food source – the larvae will die in one or two days. 

If they get a good start, they might keep growing for three to four weeks before they reach the next stage. 

In this first developmental stage, larvae need to grow in size and therefore have to eat a lot. This is why the larvae are such voracious predators.

In the second to the fourth stage, the larvae continue eating aphids, helping them metamorphose into pupae. 

How To Recognize Ladybug Larva
American Lady Caterpillar

Remaining Life Cycle 

The larval stage lasts for about 20 to 30 days, during which the larvae acclimatize to the environment, consume aphids, molts, and shed their skin to reach the next stage. 

During this stage, the larvae eat up to 400 aphids, but if the food sources are scarce, they may eat infertile eggs or even each other.

After the 20-30 day period, larvae start to change. Their outer shell starts to become harder, and their movements become slower.

Pupal stage

If the larva has stopped moving and eating anything at all it has achieved the pupal stage. 

It is quite a transformational stage that lasts for 3 to 12 days. At the end of this stage, the pupae shed their black and orange skin and what comes out is the adult ladybug. 

Adult stage

At the end of the pupal stage, the ladybug’s shell is soft. But it takes only a few hours to harden before it gains its typical bright colors. 

Once the shell is set and pigmented, the ladybird leaves the shell and moves out.

How To Recognize Ladybug Larva
Painted Lady Caterpillar

 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What looks similar to ladybug larvae?

The larvae look like orange and black miniature alligators with spiky exoskeletons and an elongated abdomen. 
There may be many caterpillars that might look similar to ladybug larvae, such as the Malacosoma disstria or the yellow-striped army moth.

What color are ladybug larvae?

Ladybug larvae have elongated bodies covered in black color. You can also find bright markings on the abdomen’s lateral side, like red, orange, or yellow. 
From afar, they look like tiny black alligators against the green backdrop of their host plants and are quite easy to pick out.

Do ladybug larvae bite?

Ladybug larvae do not bite; they don’t have teeth or mouthparts to do it. They can easily eat lots of aphids during this time. 
Asian ladybeetles that look like adult ladybugs can bite people. They are an invasive species that enter people’s homes during winter to seek warmth and shelter. 

How do I get rid of bugs that look like ladybugs?

You can get rid of bugs by vacuuming, spraying white vinegar on the insects, setting up light traps since bugs are attracted to light, drowning them in soapy water, or using insecticides to kill them. 

Wrap Up 

Ladybug larvae are uniquely distinctive insects. They can be easily spotted against the green backdrop of the leaves they are sitting on, because of their black color.

They look like tiny alligators and have striking colors on their back such as white, pink and yellow. There are a few caterpillars that might look like them, but mostly they are very easy to identify.

Thank you for reading!

Authors

    by
  • 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.

  • 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.

44 thoughts on “How To Recognize Ladybug Larva: Tiny Alligators in The Yard”

  1. This is larva of invasive Harmonia axyridis. Of course, it IS poisonous. For ants and other small creatures. Try to put it on you tongue, close your mouth but do not chew. You will feel the bitter taste of alkaloids.

    Reply
  2. My husband thinks he was bitten by a bug simular to this. Coloring is different, the one we saw was tan, white & black, not so spiky.Very small
    I know this isn’t much help ( he killed it before I could take a picture )
    He described it as looking like a scorpian with out a tail. I thought it look prehistoric.
    If you can think of any other very small inscets that look simular lease help
    Thanks,
    Bitten by ??

    Reply
  3. OMG thank you I have a ton of these on my bush in my yard and this is the only site that has them on it. I was freaking out not knowing what they were and why they are there. I hope they do not try to get inside the house.

    Reply
  4. hi I was wondering where this beetle originally comes from as I have never seen one in the UK before and was curious as I seen it eating a small green spider

    Reply
    • Hii i just saw this comment and i had the urge to reply! I live in the uk and actually found one today! i put it in this container (with air holes) and its moving xDD But yeah it can bite but yeah xDD Its really cute but kinda scary.

      Reply
  5. these lady beetle lava are eating my purple hull peas vines and peas are cover in a black don’t know what that is either live in west Tennessee how to get rid of them I have never seen these before

    Reply
  6. I have been bitten x 2 by this larva! The bite is painful and close to a bee sting but doesn’t last as long. It leaves a pretty big bright red sore and takes a couple of weeks to heal. They are vicious!

    I live in Northern CA

    Reply
  7. I have been bitten x 2 by this larva! The bite is painful and close to a bee sting but doesn’t last as long. It leaves a pretty big bright red sore and takes a couple of weeks to heal. They are vicious!

    I live in Northern CA

    Reply
  8. Lady Beetle larvae is much like the native species found through the United States. They are small, hemispherical in shape, and can be found with and without spots. Their colors may vary from black, and orange to a dull cream. However, unlike the native species, this lady beetle larvae can be quite aggressive. Masses of lady beetle larvae have been known to swarm and even bite when seeking shelter for the winter months. In this regard, they have been an unwelcome guest for homeowners that don’t find them to be good luck at all, but rather a nuisance.

    Sighned:Alexis

    Reply
  9. Lady Beetle larvae is much like the native species found through the United States. They are small, hemispherical in shape, and can be found with and without spots. Their colors may vary from black, and orange to a dull cream. However, unlike the native species, this lady beetle larvae can be quite aggressive. Masses of lady beetle larvae have been known to swarm and even bite when seeking shelter for the winter months. In this regard, they have been an unwelcome guest for homeowners that don’t find them to be good luck at all, but rather a nuisance.

    Sighned:Alexis

    Reply
  10. I was bitten by a tiny one today on my hand ( about the size of a sesame seed). I definetly noticed! Wouldn’t want a bigger one to bite. It stung, but didn’t leave a mark. Not going to lie, I smushed it! It was tiny, but creepy and it was biting me.

    Reply
  11. I have found about a dozen in my garden and want to get rid of then they seem to be doing damage to flower buds I have used a bug spray but am still finding them

    Reply
  12. I started looking into this since I saw that my parent’s cherry tree is not giving any fruit this year. Notice there is some plague and saw these little critter on the leaves. At first I thought they were the plagues, as I read more I found out they are eating the aphids eggs, is this a correct statement?
    Also, are the cannibalistic when there is lack of food? I saw a smaller larvae run into a bigger one, the big one clamped on the small one and started eating from the looks of it. A second one stopped by a little later and joined the feast.

    Reply
  13. I started looking into this since I saw that my parent’s cherry tree is not giving any fruit this year. Notice there is some plague and saw these little critter on the leaves. At first I thought they were the plagues, as I read more I found out they are eating the aphids eggs, is this a correct statement?
    Also, are the cannibalistic when there is lack of food? I saw a smaller larvae run into a bigger one, the big one clamped on the small one and started eating from the looks of it. A second one stopped by a little later and joined the feast.

    Reply
  14. I have a ton of them in my tree and all over my front porch. Do I just leave them alone and let them do their thing?

    Reply
  15. i have lots of ladybugs larva on my fruit bearing cherry tree , they are also covering my garden orniments lots of them, why have they gone onto my garden orniments as well as the tree?

    Reply
  16. I was bitten a couple days ago by what I believe to be this lady bug larvae. There is no bite mark or redness but the area around it is still numb. I can understand a bite to cause paralysis in another small insect but my thigh has been numb for a couple days now following bite. Should I worry?

    Reply
  17. I want to buy “Twice Stabbed Lady Beetles” (or their eggs), or other benificial bugs that eat (attack) Cottony Scales. Can anybody help?

    Reply
    • That is correct. Lady Beetles like all other beetles undergo complete metamorphosis with four stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult Beetle.

      Reply
  18. I have several of these Lady Asian Bugs on my apple tree found them as my Leaves were all curling up in a tube, so i sprayed them with a drop of washing up liq in a pint of water, this seemed to help the Leaves, and killed the above bugs??? “Result”

    Reply
  19. They seem to be very interested in my Rose Of Sharon and they share it with lots of ants lately. One of my sharons from the same root has recently died is this the cause of the lady beetle Are they destructive to vegetation such as plants or flowers?

    Reply
  20. I’m very late to the game n just read the info on here, I’m in central florida n its march 20, I’ve been seeing them for the last week n I was freaking out over them. I like ladybugs but this takes the cake. I live in an apartment n I’ve seen them on my balcony, but I have no idea where they’re coming from. I have no flowers n the only thing is a palm tree on the side of my balcony. Its weird …Asian lady beetle larvae in fl in spring? What’s going on?

    Reply
  21. I live in NJ in the USA. I discovered these larvae swarming my front steps and was bitten a couple of times. I found that spraying down my steps and garden plants with a solution of orange oil in water cause them to disappear. Don’t know if it killed them or just drove them away, but it worked.

    Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin from a half dozen oranges and boil in 2 cups of plain water until reduced by about 1/3. Put in a spray bottle and spray around where you see the larvae. It won’t hurt plants, as it’s a natural repellent and I didn’t find it did any damage to my steps/railings. Hope this helps!

    Reply
  22. I live in London, UK and have found Multicoloured Asian Lady Beetle larva on my apple tree. Does this mean that there are aphids on my tree or do the Multicoloured Asian Lady Beetles feed on something else?
    Any information will be appreciated.

    Reply

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