Ladybug Lifecycle: A Fascinating Journey from Egg to Adulthood

Ladybugs, also known as ladybird beetles, are cherished garden visitors with a fascinating lifecycle. These colorful insects play a vital role in controlling pest populations, as they voraciously consume aphids and other soft-bodied insects. As we delve into the world of ladybugs, we’ll explore the stages of their lifecycle and the incredible transformations they undergo.

In the beginning, ladybugs lay clusters of yellow eggs, with a well-fed ladybug producing up to 400 eggs in her lifetime source. These eggs hatch into tiny larvae which, over a period of three to four weeks, feed and grow while shedding their skins multiple times. After going through four stages of shedding, the larvae transition into a pupal stage, where they attach themselves to surfaces and transform into the adult ladybugs that we commonly recognize.

Ladybug Lifecycle Overview

Eggs

  • Ladybugs lay up to 300 eggs during spring or summer.
  • They often lay eggs in aphid colonies, ensuring a food source for the larvae.

Larvae

  • Larvae are tiny, and they grow by feeding on aphids for 3-4 weeks.
  • They shed their skins 4 times before reaching the pupal stage.

Pupae

  • Pupae attach to leaves or other surfaces for 1 week.
  • They transform into adult ladybugs during this stage.

Adults

  • Adult ladybugs have a hemispherical body and are usually brightly colored.
  • They help control pest populations by eating soft-bodied insects.

Comparing Lifecycle Stages:

Stage Duration Notable Features
Eggs <1 week Laid in aphid colonies to provide food for larvae
Larvae 3-4 weeks Grow by feeding on aphids; shed skins 4 times
Pupae 1 week Transformation into adults; attach to surfaces
Adults Varies Bright colors; continue eating pests as their primary food source

Reproduction and Mating

Male and Female Ladybugs

Male and female ladybugs can be difficult to tell apart because they don’t display significant sexual dimorphism. They both have short antennae and similar bright colors. However, a difference exists in their size, with males often being smaller than females.

Fertile and Infertile Eggs

When mating, ladybugs produce both fertile and infertile eggs. The following are some key differences between these eggs:

  • Fertile Eggs

    • Contain developing ladybug larvae
    • Hatch into healthy, young ladybugs
  • Infertile Eggs

    • Don’t contain developing larvae
    • May serve as an additional food source for the hatched larvae if resources are scarce

Mating in ladybugs can involve intense competition among males to locate and mate with a female partner, which helps increase their reproductive success.

Comparison Table

Feature Fertile Eggs Infertile Eggs
Larval content Developing ladybug larvae None
Purpose Hatching new ladybugs Extra food source if needed

Anatomy and Appearance

Parts of a Ladybug

A ladybug’s body (also known as a lady beetle) consists of three main sections: the head, thorax, and abdomen. The head contains antennae that are short, and the elytra (wing covers) protect the flying wings beneath. Ladybugs are typically small, ranging in size from about 0.8 to 18 mm in length.

  • Head: Contains eyes, mouth, and short antennae
  • Thorax: Connects the head and the elytra (wing covers)
  • Abdomen: Holds the reproductive organs and digestive system

Coloration and Patterns

Ladybugs exhibit various colors and patterns. Most are brightly colored, often in shades of red, orange, or yellow, with black spots. Some species may be mostly black.

Here are some examples of ladybug coloration:

  • Red with black spots
  • Orange with black spots
  • Yellow with black spots

Comparison of ladybugs’ coloration:

Red Orange Yellow
No. of spots Varies Varies Varies

The number of spots on a ladybug can range from none to several, like in the case of the Harmonia axyridis, which can have as many as 18 black spots on their wing covers. The coloration and patterns help to identify the specific species of ladybugs.

Feeding Habits and Prey

Ladybugs are highly beneficial insects in the garden, as they feed on a variety of pest insects, including aphids, mites, scale insects, and more. These pretty little beetles consume large amounts of prey, helping to keep harmful populations in check.

Some key features of ladybug feeding habits:

  • Voracious appetite
  • Predatory nature
  • Consume various pests

For example, convergent lady beetles are usually orange with small black spots and are known to feast on aphids. Though they’re small in size, they can eat up to 50 aphids a day!

Coccinellidae, or ladybugs, don’t only feed on insects. They also eat their own eggs and larvae, to ensure that there’s enough food available for the surviving offspring.

Here’s a handy comparison table of common ladybug prey:

Prey Description Impact on Garden
Aphids Small, soft-bodied insects Can damage plants and spread diseases
Mites Tiny arachnids Harm plants, feeding on their leaves
Scale insects Sucking pests that attack plants Cause weak/sickly plants

In short, ladybugs play a crucial role in maintaining the balance and health of your garden by keeping pest populations under control. Incorporating them can be a natural and chemical-free way to protect your plants.

Predators and Defense Mechanisms

Ladybugs face various predators, including birds, small mammals, and other insects like wasps. Although these flying predators may seem intimidating, most ladybug species possess a strong defense mechanism to counteract their attacks1.

When under threat, ladybugs release a toxic, bad-tasting, yellowish alkaloid from their leg joints1. This substance deters predators and protects the ladybugs. These insects also utilize their bright red colors as a warning sign to predators, indicating their toxic defense1.

Insect predators:

  • Wasps
  • Lacewings
  • Bigeyed bugs
  • Minute pirate bugs
  • Predatory gall wasps
  • Ants2

Defense mechanisms:

  • Exuding a toxic substance from leg joints
  • Bright red colors signaling danger to predators1

Comparing the ladybug with another common insect predator, the lacewing, we can see similarities and differences in their predatory and defensive traits:

Ladybug Lacewing
Prey Aphids, soft-bodied insects3 Aphids, small caterpillars4
Defense Toxic alkaloids1 None
Color Bright red as a warning1 Green or brown without warning

Both ladybugs and lacewings are beneficial predators for gardens, but ladybugs offer a unique advantage with their color-coded defense mechanism14.

Role in the Ecosystem and Gardens

Ladybugs, also known as ladybird beetles, play an essential role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems and gardens. They are voracious predators of soft-bodied pest insects, helping to keep their populations in check.

For instance, they actively consume aphids, which are a common garden pest. A well-fed ladybug can lay hundreds of eggs in its lifetime, increasing their presence in gardens and contributing to pest control.

Table: Comparison of Ladybugs and Chemical Pesticides

Attribute Ladybugs Chemical Pesticides
Environmentally Friendly Yes No
Pest Control Efficiency Moderate High
Application Cost Low Variable (Low to High)

The following are some characteristics of ladybugs in gardens and their ecosystem:

  • Ladybugs are natural predators of pest insects
  • They are cost-effective and environmentally friendly compared to chemical pesticides
  • They can be easily introduced in gardens to tackle pest problems

In conclusion, ladybugs are a valuable asset in gardens and ecosystems due to their ability to control pest populations. They act as a natural alternative to chemical pesticides, contributing to a healthier environment and promoting biodiversity.

Habitat and Hibernation

Ladybugs, also known as ladybird beetles, can be found in various habitats such as gardens, meadows, and forests. They are especially common in areas with plenty of plants and insect prey. In the winter months, ladybugs undergo a process of hibernation to survive the cold temperature and weather.

During hibernation, ladybugs look for shelter in leaf litter, under tree barks, or inside human-made structures. This helps them maintain an optimal temperature, conserve energy, and protect themselves from predators.

Ladybug Hibernation vs. Other Insects:

Insect Hibernation Location Body Temperature Change
Ladybug Leaf litter, tree barks, human-made structures Limited change
Arctic Ground Squirrel Burrows Significant decrease

In conclusion:

  • Ladybugs have diverse habitats and hibernate during winter months
  • They seek shelter to maintain optimal temperature and conserve energy
  • They differ from other hibernating insects in body temperature changes and shelter locations

Types of Ladybugs

There are over 450 species of lady beetles in North America, with more than 5,000 worldwide. These beetles, also known as ladybugs or ladybirds, come in various colors and patterns. Here are some examples of lady beetles:

  • Convergent Lady Beetle: Orange with small black spots
  • Twice-Stabbed Lady Beetle: Black with two red spots on its back

Their remarkable diversity extends to their sizes and forms. Adult lady beetles vary in size, averaging between 1/4 to 3/8 inches long. Their shapes range from round to oval and convex. The colors may also vary, from black to pink, to yellow, or red, with or without spots on their wings.

Lady beetles are beneficial insects, both as adults and larvae. They primarily feed on aphids, making them an essential part of pest control for farmers and gardeners. Different species may have varying characteristics, but all are part of the larger Coccinellidae family.

Table: Comparison of Two Lady Beetle Species

Species Size Color Pattern Diet
Convergent Lady Beetle Average Orange Small black spots Aphids
Twice-Stabbed Lady Beetle Average Black Two red spots on back Aphids

Ladybug-Related Activities and Uses

Ladybug Crafts and Art

Making ladybug crafts and art is a popular and engaging activity for children. These creative projects can be as simple or complex as desired.

  • Preschoolers often enjoy creating ladybug finger-paintings or collages.
  • Older kids can design their own ladybug-inspired textile patterns or connect-the-dots worksheets to practice math and addition skills.

Ladybug Farms and Educational Resources

Ladybug farms are an exciting hands-on way for students to learn about ladybug lifecycles and their role in the ecosystem.

  • Teachers can purchase live ladybugs and set up small enclosure habitats in the classroom, such as an ant farm or worm farm.
  • Students can observe ladybugs’ life stages, feeding habits, and breeding behaviors.

Comparison Table:

Activity Pros Cons
Ladybug Crafts Stimulates creativity, promotes fine motor skills, and teaches about ladybugs Materials cost, preparation time
Ladybug Farms Provides hands-on learning opportunities and ecological understanding Requires care and maintenance, initial expense in purchasing live specimens

By incorporating ladybug crafts and educational resources into their curriculum, teachers can foster a love for nature and an appreciation for the importance of these tiny but vital creatures.

Footnotes

  1. Ladybug – U.S. National Park Service 2 3 4 5 6 7

  2. Natural Enemies and Biological Control – EDIS

  3. Ladybird Beetles or Ladybugs | University of Maryland Extension

  4. Green lacewings – Home & Garden Information Center 2

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Mealybug Destroyer Larva

 

Tiny White Spiky Insect
Hello Bugman,
This afternoon in our backyard I noticed something white on my arm, thinking it was a piece of lint I went to blow it off and then noticed it was crawling.
It was an insect I have not ever seen before. I quickly ran inside and grabbed my camera. I carefully removed him from under my arm hair with the tip of a dulled toothpick; I placed him on our patio furniture and took some images of him, I was using a macro lens with a close up filter and was able to get in close for his size.
It was no more then a quarter inch in length and a eighth of an inch wide, it had soft white spike like spines all over, what was strange is some of them came off when trying to maneuver it into a better position for an image.
Got an idea, if you need more info please feel free to ask.
Thanks
Daryl
Southern California

Mealybug Destroyer Larva
Mealybug Destroyer Larva

Hi Daryl,
WE are relatively certain your larva is a Mealybug Destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri
, a beneficial species of Lady Beetle.  According to BugGuide, it was:  “Imported to the US from Australia in 1891 to control citrus mealybugs in California. Widely used for control of citrus and long-tailed mealybugs, soft scales and related pests. Will not survive cold winters, so it is mostly used in greenhouses or mild-winter areas, or has to be introduced annually.

Mealybug Destroyer Larva
Mealybug Destroyer Larva

Letter 2 – Mealybug Destroyer Larva

 

What seem to be larvae
Thought these were neat looking and wondered if you knew what they might be. Seen a few of them around our doorstep
Jenna

Hi Jenna,
This is the larva of a type of Ladybird Beetle known as the Mealybug Destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri. According to BugGuide, it was “Imported to the US from Australia in 1891 to control citrus mealybugs in California. Widely used for control of citrus and long-tailed mealybugs, soft scales and related pests. Will not survive cold winters, so it is mostly used in greenhouses or mild-winter areas, or has to be introduced annually.”

Letter 3 – Potato Ladybird Beetle from South Africa

 

Subject: Interesting ladybug from Johannesburg
Location: Northern Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa
January 29, 2015 5:24 am
Hello, I head the Eco-Schools initiative from HeronBridge College in Johannesburg, South Africa. We have started an initiative at the school called “Wild HeronBridge”. The aim is to compile lists of the creatures that share our space so we often have photos of bugs etc. that we would love to have identified. This is a case in point. It was photographed earlier in January at HeronBridge, which is in the extreme northern parts of Johannesburg, province Gauteng, South Africa. it looks like a Cheilomenes but the colour and patterning are different from the regular red orange variety. We would greatly appreciate it if you could ID it for us so that we can add it to our insect lists.
Signature: HeronBridge College

Beetle
Beetle

Dear HeronBridge College,
Do you have a larger file with greater resolution?  Are there any views showing the head of the beetle?  We are more inclined to speculate that this is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae, but we would like to see a better image prior to researching its identity.

Hello
Thanks so much for your email regarding our insect.  Unfortunately there was only one picture taken of the bug but here it is with a better resolution.  We really appreciate any assistance you can give us!
Regards
Charlotte

Leaf Beetle we believe
Potato Ladybird Beetle

Thanks for providing a higher resolution image Charlotte.  The plant it is on has a distinctive seed pod.  Can you provide the name of the plant?  That may assist in a proper identification of the Beetle, which we still believe to be a Leaf Beetle.

Leaf Beetle we believe
Potato Ladybird Beetle on Datura, we believe

Hi Daniel
Thanks again for your perseverance with this identification!  I have found out that the plant it is on is and it is interestingly a poisonous plant – Datura Stramonium:
Datura stramonium, known by the common names Jimson weed, Devil’s snare, or datura, is a plant in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. It is believed to have originated in the Americas, but is now found around the world.[1] Other common names for D. stramonium include thornapple and moon flower,[2] and it has the Spanish name Toloache.[3] Other names for the plant include hell’s bells, devil’s trumpet, devil’s weed, tolguacha, Jamestown weed, stinkweed, locoweed, pricklyburr, and devil’s cucumber.[4]
From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datura_stramonium
I hope this helps – especially as it must be quite an amazing beetle to be able to eat a poisonous plant.
Regards
Charlotte

Hi Charlotte,
Thanks for the well researched plant identification.  We did a quick search and did not come up with anything regarding Leaf Beetles, but that information should prove helpful.  We wish there was more detail in your beetle image.  We did some additional research and there are several similar looking Lady Beetles in the family Coccinellidae in South Africa, including the individual on South African PHotographs, and the ones pictured on BioDiversity Explorer.  The image of
Cheilomenes lunata on BioDiversity Explorer might be the closest. The Lunate Ladybird Beetle is well represented on iSpot.

Hi Daniel
Thanks so much – you have been extremely helpful!  Having had a look at the pictures I concur with you that the Cheilomenes Lunata comes the closest.
Much appreciated – we can post it on our Wild HeronBridge blog – where we post interesting creatures we find at the school (http://heronbridgecollege.co.za/blog  – if you have a moment!)
Regards
Charlotte

Thanks for providing a link to your wonderful blog.

Correction:  April 25, 2015
Cesar Crash from our sister site Insetologia, provided a comment indicating that this looks like a Potato Ladybird,
Epilachna dregei, which is identified on Photographs from South Africa.  According to information on iSpot, this species congregates in large aggregations in the winter.  According to Biodiversity Explorer:  “Lays eggs and feeds on potato and tomato leaves. Larvae feed on the underside of the leaves and adults on the top side. Adults congregate in large numbers and spend the dry season on hilltops.”  Most Lady Beetles are predatory, but there are a few species, including the Potato Ladybird, that feed on plants.  Since Datura is in the same family as potato and tomato, it makes sense that Charlotte found this individual on Datura.

Letter 4 – Beetle Urges

 

Ladybug mating pics
Hi,
I got carried away & sifted through all my bug pictures since I got my digital camera & tidied up the best ones for you. I’ll send them in bunches, trying not to make any one email huge. Use whatever ones you like, however you like on your site.
Love, Marian

Hi Marian,
Your mating Ladybird Beetles are a nice addition to our site. Thanks much

Letter 5 – Bicolored Multicolored Asian Ladybird

 

bi-colored Multicoloerd Asian Lady Beetle
Wed, Oct 29, 2008 at 10:22 AM
Before you redesigned your site there was an image from somebody in Florida of a two-tone Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle. By two-toned i mean one side being red and the other was orange. I was not able to relocate that image since your redesign. Do you remember the image? I found one and uploaded it to BugGuide. I included a link to your image as proof that they do exist to help dispel the notion that my image may have been photoshopped.
Here is my image on BugGuide .
http://bugguide.net/node/view/160448 or copy and paste is html isn’t enabled
Ron M.
Kenner, Louisiana

Bicolored Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle
Bicolored Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle

Hi Ron,
We are quite certain that many submissions vanished during our site migration, and we appreciate you bringing this unusual submission to our attention.  We had to go to our old Dreamweaver version to locate it, but it has been returned to our Ladybird Beetle category.  Thanks for sending your photo as well.

Update: November 23, 2010
This excellent explanation just arrived in the form of a comment:  “The right elytron (forewing) of this invasive Harmonia axyridis probably died early, keeping its “young” orange color, while the left continued to store red pigment (caroten).

Letter 6 – Asian Multicolored Lady Beetle

 

ladybug mystery
Could you help me?
I found this black ladybug and I can’t identify it. P.S. I didn’t take the picture,I found it, but not the name of the ladybug.
anonymus.

Hi Anonymous,
Your ladybug goes by the melodramatic name Two-Stabbed Ladybird, Chilocorus orbus.

Correction: (10/20/2005) from Eric Eaton
“Sorry, forgot to mention the twice-stabbed lady beetle. That is not what the image is of. It is possibly a melanic (black) version of the two-spotted lady beetle, Adalia bipunctata. Not uncommon in Europe, don’t know about here in the states. Other possibility is the black form of the ashy gray lady beetle, Olla v-nigrum. Could be something else entirely, but those two are at the top of the suspect list, and in that order. The white markings on the pronotum (top of the thorax) say that it is NOT Chilocorus. Chilocorus species all have a solid black pronotum. ”

Correction: November 23, 2010
We just received numerous comments identifying many of our Lady Beetles and Larvae as Asian Multicolored Lady Beetles, including this black individual.

Letter 7 – Coleomegilla fuscilabris

 

What’s this I’m stumped…not quite a lady bug… the head is wrong. Any ideas. Thanks,s
Suzanne

Dear Suzanne,
You do in fact have a member of the Ladybird Beetle Family Coccinellidae. Your specimen is Coleomegilla fuscilabris. The species, which ranges from light yellow to reddish-orange with black markings. It is common on foilage.

Letter 8 – Common Spotted Ladybird from Australia

 

Subject: Lady Bug?
Location: Melbourne Australia
September 13, 2013 10:30 pm
Can you tell me if this is a lady bug or perhaps something else. I found it on my rose plant leaves but it does not seem to fly.
Signature: CD

Common Spotted Ladybird
Common Spotted Ladybird

Dear CD,
We identified your Lady Beetle as a Common Spotted Ladybird,
Harmonia conformis, thanks to numerous photos on the Brisbane Insect Website.

Mr Marlos,
Thank you very much.
Kind Regards,
Clarence.

Letter 9 – Cream Spot Ladybird from Denmark

 

Ladybug with 12 white spots?
Mon, Apr 13, 2009 at 2:27 AM
Hi
I found this in my house.
Can you tell me what kind of bug it is?
Kind regards
Vamdrup, Denmark

Cream Spot Ladybird
Cream Spot Ladybird

Dear Reader,
Though your letter specifies 12 spots, we believe this is a Cream Spot Ladybird, Calvia quatuordecimguttata, which is reported to have 14 spots. We count 14 spots including the two on the pronotum. It is a common European species according to Ladybirds of Western Europe website. We also located a pdf that has images of European Ladybirds: ladybird-descriptiona22d8d.

Cream Spot Ladybird
Cream Spot Ladybird

Letter 10 – Endangered Female Ladybird Spider from Spain

 

Subject: Spanish Spider
Location: Almeria, Spain
May 14, 2014 6:05 am
Hi there,
I found this lovely spider wandering slowly across one of the banks in my garden in South East Spain.
I was hoping you might give me it’s exact identification and if it was one you could safely pick up?
On this occasion I allowed it to quietly go on it’s way.
So, April, Almeria, Spain. 25°c. Midday. Measured about 50mm in span.
Signature: Jon C.

Female Ladybird Spider
Female Ladybird Spider

Dear Jon,
We are thrilled to receive and post your images of an endangered female Ladybird Spider,
Eresus sandaliatus, a species and genus that is threatened across most of its European range.  This species exhibits extreme sexual dimorphism, and the male Ladybird Spider looks like an entirely different species with his red coloration and black spots, markings that resemble those of a Ladybird Beetle.  More images can be found on ARkive.

Female Ladybird Spider
Female Ladybird Spider
Female Ladybird Spider
Female Ladybird Spider

Letter 11 – Eyespot Ladybird

 

unusal ladybug
Dear Bugman:
I know your swamped right now, but I could really use your help. I found a unique lady bird beetle in my backyard which I need to identify. Entomology is a hobby for me and I’m very interested in being able to positively identify this insect. The pronotum has the "M" marking so I thought that it may be an Asian Ladybug – but I’m not sure. I really appreciate any help you could give identifying this insect. Photos of the insect are attached. Respectfully,
Sarah Vitale

Hi Sarah,
Your lovely specimen is an Eyespot Ladybird, Anatis mali, a native species in North America (though you did not provide us with a location).

Letter 12 – Fifteen Spotted Ladybird

 

What kind of ladybug
Is this an Ash Gray, it’s spots are creamy brown not black? Thanks
Amber
Tn

Hi Amber from Tennessee,
This is a Fifteen Spotted Ladybird, Anatis labiculata. BugGuide illustrates two different color variations on this species.

Letter 13 – Lady Bug

 

ok anyone out there know how to get rid of the lady bugs in ky? we have tried everything house is tight but they are still getting in. a person could make a million dollars with a great answer. i dont have a million but bet ya people would buy the idea if it works.we have tried chemicals, herbs, etc. but there still here. anyone? thanks…….. cindy

Hi Cindy,
I can’t tell you how to keep them out, but I can tell you how to get them out. Because they release a staining substance when trying to remove them, a light touch is necessary. How about the vacuum cleaner. Just vacuum them away.

Letter 14 – Lady Bug

 

What’s are these bugs? All were found on Fort Bragg, NC My daughter and I are creating a site where we are doing an online bug collection. I have tried many sources to identify these bugs to no avail. Do you know what any of these are?
Lynette

Hi Lynette,
Congratulations on your site. This is the pupa of a Ladybird Beetle, commonly known as a Ladybug, though they are really beetles. There is an interesting theory about the meaning of the children’s song, according to Lutz. He writes “Many of us have quoted: ‘Lady-bird, lady-bird! Fly away home. Your house is on fire. Your children do roam.’ Some of us add: ‘Except little Nan, who sits in a pan weaving gold laces as fast as she can.’ What is it all about? Many Lady-bird (Coccinellid) larva eat Aphids and this rhyme started in the Old country, where they burn the hop vines after the harvests. These vines are usually full of aphids and coccinellid ‘children.’ A Nan who can not roam but sits in a pan weaving gold laces is … a yellow pupa.” (ed note: your pupa is of the black and red variety) “Why ‘Lady-bird’ or ‘Lady Beetles?’" continues Lutz, "That goes back still further to the Middle Ages when these beneficial insects were dedicated to the virgin and were the ‘Beetles of Our Lady.'”

Letter 15 – Lady Bug

 

Dear bug man,
I was wondering if you could help me out and identify this bug. It fell out of a tree, landed on my boss’s face and stung him. I have attached a photo of the offender. The bug is about 1⁄4 of an inch in length. It is black with an orange U on its back; it has six legs and a very small head. Its abdomen is slightly flattened. Also, it has some very spikey hairs on its back- not very long but they remind me of the hairs on a caterpillar. Any help would be appreciated
Thanks,
Amanda

Dear Amanda,
You are probably going to find this hard to believe, but that was a young ladybug that landed on your boss’ face. While it is doubtful that it mistook your boss for an aphid, you must remember that both adult and larval forms of ladybugs are voracious hunters, and perhaps your specimen was just hungry. They don’t sting, but they could bite.

Letter 16 – Lady Bug

 

Daniel,
We just bought an old house and in the basement and on the lower outside walls of the house we have an infestation (I mean millions) of black bugs with thin, neatly drawn orange lines outlining their backs/wings. Thee bugs have narrow bodies, are about 3/4 of an inch long, and have long antennae. They fly occasionally, but mostly just crawl around, and they sit in large clusters–they pile right on top of each other. Strangely, we also have lots of lady bugs mixing in with them. I live in southern York county, PA (on the PA/MD line) and we have had an unusually warm winter.
Any idea what the black bugs are, why they and the lady
bugs are here, whether they are doing damage and what I can
do to get rid of them and prevent them from returning?
Many, many thanks.
Tricia


Does this look familiar?

Dear Tricia,
Ladybugs are famous for communal hibernation, generally in mountainous areas. In recent years though, throughout the Eastern states, they have begun to invade homes. My internet search turned up this quote from the site http://www.uky.edu :

"People first started reporting large aggregations of lady beetles (ladybugs) on homes and buildings in Kentucky during the fall of 1993. Ladybugs are normally considered beneficial insects because they feed outdoors on aphids and other harmful plant pests. However, these beetles are congregating on the sides of buildings, and if given the opportunity, moving
inside. Lady beetles do not sting or carry diseases, nor do they infest food, clothing, or wood. Nonetheless, this particular species (Harmonia axyridis) can become a nuisance when large numbers begin crawling on windows, walls, light fixtures, and other indoor surfaces. When disturbed, they also secrete a foul-smelling orange-colored fluid that can spot and stain walls, carpeting, and other surfaces….
Because the Asian lady beetle is a tree-dwelling insect, homes and buildings in forested areas are especially prone to infestation. Suburban and landscaped industrial settings adjacent to wooded areas have also had large lady beetle aggregations. Once the beetles land on the sunny side of the
building, they attempt to locate cracks and other dark openings for hibernation sites. These locations may ultimately be on any side of the structure. Common overwintering sites include cracks and crevices around window and door frames, porches, garages and outbuildings, beneath exterior siding and roof shingles, and within wall voids, attics, and soffits. Structures in poor repair or with many cracks and openings are especially vulnerable to problems."

The site goes on to recomment removing the ladybugs with a vacuum cleaner. Your other insect is most probably a box elder bug (Leptocoris trivittatus).
On http://www.pma.edmonton.ab.ca it says, "When present in large enough numbers Box Elder Bugs can do damage to Manitoba Maple trees. Most people call us in the fall because they are curious about the large numbers on the walls of their houses or concerned about the numbers that are getting in the houses. Washing them off the walls of the house with a blast of cold water from a hose may help. The only way to ensure that they do not get inside the house is to fill in all
cracks where they could be getting in, a rather daunting and expensive task."
Though each of these insects is known to form communes, I have never heard of them bedding down together, but they’re not the strangest bedfellows I’ve encountered by far.


daniel, you are my hero. Many thanks for your help. We’re promptly getting out the hose and starting to fill in cracks–and I’m sleeping much better knowing that neither bug is eating my house into sawdust. What a valuable service you perform for those of us who are bug-clueless!
Many thanks again.
tricia

Letter 17 – Ladybird Larva

 

Bug Found on our Milkweed
Sun, May 24, 2009 at 8:32 AM
Found this bug on our milkweed plants. We had Monarch eggs and caterpillars but now there are none. Is this a bug we should suspect has hurt our Monarch eggs and caterpillars? What is this bug?
Ira in Texas
San Antonio, Texas

Ladybird Larva
Ladybird Larva

Dear Ira,
This is the larva of a Ladybird Beetle or Lady Bug.  The presence of this larva indicates that there are probably Aphids on your milkweed.  The Ladybird Larva will eat Aphids, but it will not bother the Monarch Caterpillars.  You must have another culprit.

Letter 18 – Ladybird Larva we suppose

 

Found a cool looking insect
Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 4:50 AM
This insect has 6 legs which are yellow in color. It is long compared to how wide it is. It is probably about a cm long or so and a quarter of that wide. The head and neck of it is blue as well as the tail on it. But the very center of it is a very bright yellow with blue in the center and then yellow and blue spikes. Up close the bug looks very hairy but i am not so sure. I found him on a 4×4 post on my fence line, it caught me off guard because of its amazing bright colors. Sorry i cant get a picture right now but i did draw a somewhat childish painting and is attached to image 1. Thank You
Dan Dan the bugman
North America, Michigan

Drawing of a Ladybird Larva
Drawing of a Ladybird Larva

Hi Dan Dan the bugman,
In our ongoing efforts to distinguish ourselves from the plethora of more scientific insect websites in existance by trying to have a more pop culture appeal, we love getting letters like yours with drawings. We believe you have found an immature Ladybird Beetle, or Lady Bug. We have also had them described as looking like alligators.  We find your amusing drawing to be a refreshing change from the many anatomically correct insect drawings found in texts.

Letter 19 – Ladybird Pupa and Adult

 

ladybug stages
I love your sight! As a homeschooling mom, my kids and I frequently visit What’s That Bug to identifiy and classify everything in our area. Recently, we ran across these bugs on and under our pecan tree. I think we’ve identified and photographed three of the four stages of a ladybug’s life. I’m sorry the larvae is so blurry; that’s not the camera but simply user error on my part. Please let us know if we’re right.
Thanks,
Ginger
New Mexico

Hi again GInger,
Your identification is correct. We will not post the blurry larva photo as we have many larval Ladybird images, but Pupa are a bit rarer in our archive.

Letter 20 – Mating Ladybirds at the Nixon Library!!!

 

Great web site
;Bugman,
thanks for your help on my recent submissions. Your web site is great. I’ve been photographing crawling critters for a few years and it’s nice to have a place to identify these little marvels. I’m sending you a few more that you can use on your site if you’d like. I photographed the Ladybugs at the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda Ca. The Millipede came from Heber Springs, Arkansas. The Female American Dog Tic, hitch-hiked on me while on a trail in Anaheim Ca.
Thanks again
Rus

Hi Rus,
We were slightly amused that you photographed an insect with the same name as a former President’s wife at the library of another President. Planting trees and shrubs will attract insects. Your mating Ladybird Beetles are stunning.

Letter 21 – Mealybug Destroyer

 

Subject: Bloodsucker
Location: Texas
March 18, 2014 2:29 pm
What type of bug/mite is this? It was feeding on my boyfriend.
Signature: Soni

Mealybug Destroyer
Mealybug Destroyer

Dear Soni,
Please provide some clarification.  What do you mean “feeding” on your boyfriend?  Though your images are extremely blurry, this appears to be a type of Lady Beetle known as a Mealybug Destroyer,
Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, and though it is possible to be bitten by a Lady Beetle, we would not consider them to be Bloodsuckers.  The Mealybug Destroyer is native to Australia, and according to BugGuide, it was:  “Imported to the US from Australia in 1891 to control citrus mealybugs in California. Widely used for control of citrus and long-tailed mealybugs, soft scales and related pests. Will not survive cold winters, so it is mostly used in greenhouses or mild-winter areas, or has to be introduced annually.”  Though we have several images of the larvae of Mealybug Destroyers in our archives, these are the first images of the adult beetles we have received.

Mealybug Destroyer
Mealybug Destroyer

Letter 22 – Mealybug Destroyer Larva found in Swimming Pool in Australia

 

Subject:  Strange bug found by swimming pool
Geographic location of the bug:  Brisbane Australia
Date: 02/26/2018
Time: 09:46 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi  we came across this guy the other day. Found by my grand daughter. Just wondered if you have seen anything like it before. Thanks
How you want your letter signed:  Gary Buckle

Mealybug Destroyer Larva

Dear Gary,
This looks to us like the larva of a Lady Beetle known as a Mealybug Destroyer, a species native to Australia that has been exported for agricultural purposes to help control populations of Mealybugs in agricultural areas.  The larva is pictured on the Brisbane Insect site.

Letter 23 – Mealybug Destroyer Larva from New Zealand

 

White Fuzzy Bug
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
December 28, 2010 12:05 am
I found several of these bugs crawling around a Ponga tree (fern-like tree native to New Zealand). They are between 2-4mm long. Any help identifying them would be greatly appreciated.
Signature: Karen

Mealy Bug Destroyer

Dear Karen,
We believe you have photographed the larva of a species of Lady Beetle known as the Mealy Bug Destroyer, a beneficial species native to Australia that has been imported to other locations, including Florida and California where it helps to control Mealy Bugs on citrus trees.  This presents an interesting case of mimicry because the larva of the Mealy Bug Destroyer looks very similar to its prey, the Mealy Bug.  The Mealy Bug Destroyer,
Cryptolaemus montrouzieri, is profiled on the Insects of Brisbane website and you may view an excellent photo of the larva on BugGuide.  The Mealy Bug Destroyer is also found in New Zealand, and according to an internet source:  “In New Zealand, the natural distribution of C. montrouzieri is currently restricted to the warmer areas of the country in the north of the North Island, as far south as Gisborne.

Mealy Bug Destroyer

Letter 24 – Mystery from Cuba: Beetle Larva or Caterpillar???

 

what ??
Location:  Cuba
August 4, 2010 12:25 pm
Saw this in Cuba, only an inch or so long, I didnt touch it, I just left it to wander off.
Can you tell me what it is Please.
Thanks
Jan

Mystery Larva from Cuba

Hi Jan,
When we first looked at the thumbnail attached to your email, we thought this must be a Stinging Slug Caterpillar in the family Limacodidae, but once we enlarged it and saw the size of the legs, we changed our mind.  We believe this is a beetle larva, perhaps on of the Lady Beetles in the family Coccinellidae.  There are many examples posted to BugGuide.

Letter 25 – Permission to use WTB? photo as source material for a drawing

 

Subject: larva photo drawing
January 31, 2014 6:12 pm
I need to know if you allow me to do a color pencil drawing of your photo of the yellow and black ladybird larva.
Im an art student at Berkekey City College with the oportunity to ilustrate a book.  Said that,  you have the perfect  picture I can use as a guide.
Thank you.
Signature: Irene Diaz

Hi Irene,
We have no problem with you using any images you find on What’s That Bug? as source material for a drawing.  In our opinion, creating a new piece of art inspired by an existing image does not violate any copyright laws.

Thank you so much for being so kind!
Wish you the best.
Irene Diaz

Lady Beetle Illustration by Irene Diaz
Lady Beetle Illustration by Irene Diaz

Hi Irene,
Your illustration is lovely, and while we see the similarity to the photo of the Ladybird Larva that inspired you, your work is definitely unique.

Thank you so much for being so kind!
Wish you the best.
Irene Diaz

Letter 26 – Lady Beetle from Argentina

 

Subject: Colorful beetle
Location: Chubut Province, Argentina
December 19, 2014 8:51 pm
While traveling in Patagonia near the Valdes Peninsula we saw this truly beautiful bug. The picture was taken in mid-November. We were close to the Atlantic Ocean. I have looked through the web trying to identify. I hope you may have an answer. Thank you,
Signature: Homer Shell

Unknown Beetle
Lady Beetle

Dear Homer,
This is sure a colorful and distinctive looking beetle.  Our first inclination is to speculate it is a Leaf Beetle in the family Chrysomelidae.  We will attempt a more specific identification and we hope to get some assistance from our readership.

Lady Beetle identification courtesy of Karl
Hi Daniel and Homer Shell:
Although it really doesn’t look like one, this is actually a Lady Beetle (a.k.a. Ladybug or Ladybird). The species is Eriopis connexa (Coccinellidae: Coccinellinae) and it is one of the most wide spread beetles in South America. Like most Lady beetles, it is a voracious predator of aphids and is widely used for biological control of pests on crops such as maize and sorghum.
lRegards.  Karl

Thanks very much to Daniel and Karl for the ID.  You were a great help.
Homer Shell

Letter 27 – We're On Holiday

 

April 20, 2011
Gentle Readers,
We will be on holiday through the beginning of next week.  We have postdated some interesting letters and photos to go live daily during our absence to keep you entertained, however, we will not be responding to any emails.  In honor of our trip to Ohio, we have used an image from our archives of mating Convergent Lady Beetles, the Ohio State Insect, to illustrate this post.

Mating Convergent Lady Beetles

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.

21 thoughts on “Ladybug Lifecycle: A Fascinating Journey from Egg to Adulthood”

  1. The Asian Ladybird Beetles have started their annual aggregations here in Northwest Indiana so it’s a good bet to say that this is probably a larva. If I find an aggregation I’ll try to capture a picture. It’s quite something to see the air thick with redish orange beetles. Sadly though, it’s another reminder that fall is here and colder weather is not far behind.

    Reply
  2. I had never seen one of these until the other day at work, I was sitting outside on break and noticed little white specks falling from the trees. The specks were these guys, hundreds of them! Now that I know more about them, I wonder how much time the trees have left to live…

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  3. This is the invasive Asian Multicolored Lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis. Hybrid between the melanic morph called conspicua and common red, black-spotted form succinea.

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  4. The right elytron (forewing) of this invasive Harmonia axyridis probably died early, keeping its “young” orange color, while the left continued to store red pigment (caroten).

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  5. I can now say this is definitely in about 6 of my native florida grass plants along south side of my house. Probably around 4 weeks ago, I noticed that these plants developed pure white fuzziness and thought is was some sort of fungus. Now today I notice these pure white furry mealybug destroyer larva walking up and down the grass. Along with these are several lady bug looking bugs that have red head that abrubtly turns into black… Are the mealybugs harmful? Have they overtaken and cause the florida grass to become infected with something? Really odd… Thanks

    Reply
  6. I just found a spotless harlequin ladybird with a similar colouration!
    I was wondering if the wing had “died”, but I just saw it fly, so both wings are functional.
    Unless it is the elytrum that died but not the wing.

    Reply
  7. I just found a spotless harlequin ladybird with a similar colouration!
    I was wondering if the wing had “died”, but I just saw it fly, so both wings are functional.
    Unless it is the elytrum that died but not the wing.

    Reply
  8. I saw one of these outside my house in Spain, my sister ended up killing it in panic before I looked up it’s species. Feel guilty now…

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  9. Hello, we would like to use these mealybug destroyers as an ipm in our greenhouse. Is there someone who can tell us where to get them in New Zealand? Regards, Jacob

    Reply
    • Thanks Cesar. The link you provided mentions the Potato Ladybird, which looks like a good match, but your comment calls it a Tomato Ladybird. Did you get the common name Tomato Ladybird from another source or was it a typographical error?

      Reply
  10. I have just encountered a male of these spiders making its way across our patio here in Barinas, Murcia, Spain. It was unmistakable with its bright red back and four black spots .

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  11. I saw first a male running across the ground, then 10 minutes later a female. It was May 15th this year at about 10 am.
    I live in the Almanzora Valley near Cantoria, Almeria.

    Reply
  12. I saw first a male running across the ground, then 10 minutes later a female. It was May 15th this year at about 10 am.
    I live in the Almanzora Valley near Cantoria, Almeria.

    Reply
  13. Saw a black female version of this spider in Lindos, Greece in Oct 2019. It was walking slowly up an outside wall at night then stopped still for ages. It seemed happy.

    Reply

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