The Spotted Lady Beetle Explained: What You Need to Know

The spotted lady beetle is an intriguing and beneficial insect that you are sure to encounter in gardens and various ecosystems. Known for its incredible ability to consume large numbers of aphids and other small soft-bodied insects, these beetles play a vital role in keeping different ecosystems in balance.

One common variety of the lady beetle is the pink spotted lady beetle, which is easily identified by its pink color with black spots on its wing covers. Another native North American example is the Stethorus punctum, also known as the black lady beetle, which is much smaller and is an important predator of mites in apple orchards.

As you get to know the spotted lady beetle and its incredible attributes, you’ll surely appreciate its invaluable presence in maintaining healthy environments. Not only are they fascinating creatures, but they serve as excellent indicators of a well-functioning ecosystem. So, next time you’re out in your garden, make sure to keep an eye out for these natural helpers.

Physical Features

Color and Markings

The color and markings of spotted lady beetles vary depending on the species. For example, the pink spotted lady beetle is pink with 6 black spots on each wing cover and 2 black spots on the thorax. On the other hand, the seaside lady beetle, twelve-spotted lady beetle, and twenty-spotted lady beetle have different patterns and colors. Their coloration can range from red and orange to yellow. Most of these beetles have black markings on the head, pronotum, and elytra.

Size and Scale

Spotted lady beetles vary in size, but most of them are small insects. For example, the pink spotted lady beetle is about 1/5 to 1/4 inch (5-6 mm) long. Their elongate oval bodies are convex when viewed from the side. Other spotted lady beetle species are generally within the same size range.

Overall, spotted lady beetles are characterized by their unique coloration and markings, as well as their small size. These physical features could help you with identifying each species when you encounter them in the field.

Identification and Images

When it comes to identifying the spotted lady beetle, there are a few key features you can look out for:

  • Color: Adult spotted lady beetles are typically pink with black spots.
  • Size: They are about 1/5 to 1/4 inch (5-6 mm) long.
  • Shape: Their bodies are elongated oval when seen from above, and convex when viewed from the side.
  • Spots: They have 6 black spots on each wing cover and 2 black spots on their thorax as mentioned in the UC Statewide IPM Program.

To distinguish them from other lady beetles, consider the following:

  • Seven-spotted lady beetle: This species has 7 black spots instead of 6 on its wing covers, and a white spot on both sides of the head, as per the Missouri Department of Conservation.
  • Multicolored Asian ladybeetle: They can be yellow to red and their spot pattern might vary, according to Texas A&M University.

When trying to identify a spotted lady beetle, you can check out images online to compare their features. A good practice is to search for images captured from different angles, such as a top view, side view, and close-ups of their spots. This would help you better understand their coloration, shape, and spot patterns, which are crucial for correct identification.

Habitat and Distribution

Across the US

Spotted lady beetles, also known as Coleomegilla maculata, are prevalent throughout the United States. While they can be found from coast to coast, they are particularly common in the eastern and central regions, such as Vermont1. As an adaptable species, these beneficial insects thrive in a variety of environments.

Natural Habitats

Spotted lady beetles prefer habitats that provide a rich food supply and adequate shelter. They are commonly found living amongst the stems and leaves of various plants, both in wild and cultivated areas2. You might also spot them in hedgerows, meadows, and alongside flowers, since the adult beetles are partial to feeding on pollen. These predators typically search for habitats where their primary food source, aphids, are present3.

Although they are native to North America, spotted lady beetles have also been introduced to other countries to help control aphid populations as a form of natural pest control4. In regions where they are not native, it’s important to provide them with protected sites for survival, especially during cold winters. By preserving and enhancing their natural environment, you can encourage spotted lady beetles to thrive, benefiting your garden or local ecosystem in the process.

Life Cycle

Eggs and Larvae

In the spring, spotted lady beetles start their life cycle as eggs. Females lay their eggs near food sources for their young larvae, depositing them in small clusters (source).

Once hatched, the larvae begin feeding on nearby prey. They go through several growth stages, called instars, before transitioning to the next phase of their life cycle. Within these stages, the larvae are voracious feeders, consuming a large number of pests like aphids that can damage your plants.

Pupa and Adult Stage

After completing their larval stage, spotted lady beetles pupate to transform into adults. They form protective pupae, usually attached to a leaf or stem where they remain for a few weeks (source).

Once the adult spotted lady beetle emerges, it continues to feed on small insects and pests. Throughout their lifespan, which lasts around 1 to 3 months, female adults lay more eggs, starting new generations of spotted lady beetles. In the fall, these beetles begin hibernation, seeking shelter in organic litter or other protected places (source).

By understanding the life cycle of spotted lady beetles and their beneficial roles, you can appreciate their contributions to your garden, protecting your plants from detrimental pests.

Diet and Predation

Prey and Food Sources

As a beneficial predatory insect, the spotted lady beetle primarily feeds on soft-bodied insects, such as aphids and mites. Additionally, they also consume insect eggs and mealybugs.

Their diet isn’t restricted to just pests, though. Spotted lady beetles also supplement their diet with other nutritional sources like pollen, nectar, honeydew, and water.

Feeding Habits

In both adult and larval stages, spotted lady beetles actively hunt and consume prey. They primarily target the pests causing damage to plants, making them extremely beneficial for natural pest control.

For example, the black lady beetle (Stethorus punctum) is known to be an effective predator of spider mites in apple orchards. Similarly, Hyperaspis lateralis is a scale and mealybug predator found in North America.

Comparison Table:

Food Source Benefit
Aphids Pest Control
Mites Pest Control
Insect Eggs Pest Control
Mealybugs Pest Control
Pollen Nutritional Supplement
Nectar Nutritional Supplement
Honeydew Nutritional Supplement
Water Hydration

Role in Ecosystem

As a Biological Control

The spotted lady beetle, or Coleomegilla maculata, belongs to the Coccinellidae family and is a natural predator within the ecosystem. They are beneficial insects known for consuming various pests that harm plants. For example, they feed on aphids, scale insects, and mealybugs, making them an effective form of biological control.

Their presence in various crops such as corn, wheat, sorghum, alfalfa, peas, cotton, and potatoes can help protect these plants from pests. Here’s a quick comparison table of some key characteristics of the spotted lady beetle vs. the multi-colored Asian lady beetle, an introduced species:

Characteristic Spotted Lady Beetle (Coleomegilla maculata) Multi-colored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis)
Color Pink or dark pink with black spots Yellow to red with black spots, coloration can vary
Native Yes Introduced
Biological control Effective in controlling pests like aphids, scale insects Also effective but may outcompete native species

Crop Protection

Ladybugs, including spotted lady beetles, are crucial for maintaining the health of various crops. By preying on pests like the Colorado potato beetle and aphids, these beetles protect crops such as sweet corn, soybeans, and more. They are a friendly and efficient form of pest management, minimizing the need for chemical pesticides.

With aggregations of spotted lady beetles and other native species in your crops, you can expect fewer instances of pest infestation and healthier plants. Remember that in case of extreme pest infestations, ladybugs alone may not be enough to maintain a balance and other pest control methods might be required. As a gardener, it’s important to recognize and encourage ladybird beetles in your environment for a safer, more sustainable way to manage pests.

Other Lady Beetle Species

Besides the spotted lady beetle, there are many other lady beetle species that play vital roles in maintaining the balance in our ecosystem. In this section, you will get to know some of these species and their fascinating features.

Convergent Lady Beetle: This species is commonly referred to as the ladybug. It’s usually orange with a number of small black spots (source). A useful quality of this species is its ability to control aphid populations in gardens.

Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle: These beetles have a wider range of colors and spot numbers than other species. Wings range from black to mustard, and spots can vary from zero to many. The most common form in the U.S. is mustard to red with 16 or more black spots (source). This species was introduced to control aphids but has now become a nuisance due to its habit of overwintering in large numbers inside buildings.

Black Lady Beetle: Known as the “spider mite destroyer,” this native North American species is an important predator of mites in apple orchards. Although similar in shape to other lady beetles, black lady beetles are much smaller, with a diameter of approximately 1/16 inch (1.5mm) (source).

Some quick facts about lady beetles in general:

  • They are oval, almost hemispherical insects.
  • Sizes typically range from 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch long.
  • Colors vary from black, pink, red, orange, brown, to gray, with or without spots on their wings.
  • They serve as essential predators, feeding on pests like aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites, thus helping to keep their populations in check.

In summary, lady beetles are a diverse group of insects that come in various colors, sizes, and spot patterns. Each species has its unique niche and role in the ecosystem, so don’t forget to appreciate these tiny yet significant creatures next time you spot one in your garden.

Reproduction and Mating

Spotted lady beetles are fascinating creatures when it comes to their biology and reproduction. During the mating season, which generally occurs in September, these beetles engage in a unique courtship ritual.

When a male spotted lady beetle locates a female, he quickly strokes his antennae and his front pair of legs in a specific manner. This courtship is essential, as all beetles reproduce sexually, and the offspring result from the joining of sperm from the father and eggs from the mother.

As a beetle enthusiast, you might also find it exciting that spotted lady beetle larvae are dark, alligator-like creatures with three pairs of prominent legs. They grow from less than 1 mm to about 1 cm in length, typically through four larval instars, over a 20 to 30 day period (source).

Remember, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the biology and mating habits of spotted lady beetles to not only appreciate their unique life cycle but also understand their contribution to the ecosystem as predators of small soft-bodied insects.

Leaf Litter and Overwintering

In your garden, leaf litter plays a vital role for the spotted lady beetle during the colder months. You see, these beneficial insects take refuge in the leaf debris to overwinter, protecting them from extreme temperatures and predators.

When tidying up your garden for winter, consider leaving some piles of leaves undisturbed. This helps provide a cozy hiding place for lady beetles, which in turn helps maintain their population in your area.

Here are some key points to remember:

  • Leaf litter helps spotted lady beetles overwinter in your garden
  • Overwintering provides protection from harsh temperatures and predators
  • Maintaining leaf piles encourages the insects’ survival and benefits your garden in the long run

By creating a friendly environment for overwintering spotted lady beetles, you’re ensuring they’ll continue to be present in your garden to help control harmful pests, like aphids, during the growing season. Remember to keep the leaf litter undisturbed, and you’ll be thankful for the natural pest control these little helpers provide.

Footnotes

  1. Lady Beetles – Cornell University
  2. Lady beetle – Texas A&M University
  3. Pink Spotted Lady Beetle / UC Statewide IPM Program (UC IPM) – ucanr.edu
  4. Lady Beetles | NC State Extension Publications

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 – Fourteen Spotted Ladybird Beetle

Black and Yellow Checkered Ladybug
Hi,
I’m Chris from Quebec. I’ve found this sort of ladybug a couple of times in my garden, and was curious what species it is. Never seen it before, and now I’ve seen three :). Thanks for your wonderful site. It’s the best place I’ve found to id my mysterious bugs!
Take care!

Hi Chris,
This is a Fourteen Spotted Ladybird Beetle, Propylea quatuordecimpunctata. It is native to Europe but can now be found in Canada and Northeast U.S. We are happy to now have the species represented on our site.

Letter 2 – Fourteen Spotted Lady Beetle from Romania

Subject: Ladybug or carpet beetle?
Location: Eastern Europe, Romania
November 29, 2012 8:33 am
I found this little thing today next to my window, at first I thought it was a ladybug but it’s brown and the black dots are so large that they connect. I found a 2nd one which was already squashed to the window. Based on my google research it may be a carpet beetle but the pattern doesn’t quite match.
Signature: Alexandru Costin

Fourteen Spotted Lady Beetle

Dear Alexandru,
This is actually one of the Lady Beetles, and it is known as the Fourteen Spotted Lady Beetle,
Propylea quatuordecimpunctata You may read more about the Fourteen Spotted Lady Beetle on the Urban Wildlife Guide.

Hello Daniel,
Thank you so much for the reply, I was afraid I had a carpet beetle infestation brewing somewhere.
I’m glad I helped the first one I found and let it fly away and I feel bad for the one I found squished.

Letter 3 – Spotted Lady Beetle

mystery beetle
Dear Bugman,
I looked at every beetle page and did not find this one. It is a longer, blunt oval….not a roundish oval like a ladybug; but it is about the size of a ladybug. It was on the stem of a pickerel weed in a pond. I could not get closer or a different angle as I was hanging out of my boat with my camera arm stretched into the clump of water plants. Photographed August 15, in a small lake in northeast CT. I couldn’t see with my eyes what it was doing very well…seemed busy at that spot though. Thank you for your help, and thank you for years of pleasure just cruising the photos and reading the comments. I have found almost every insect I looked for on your site…or at least found a clue to family.
Emma

Hi Emma,
Thanks for the compliment. Since most Ladybird Beetles are characterized by spots, we are very curious what has earned Coleomegilla maculata the singular distinction of the common name Spotted Lady Beetle, at least according to BugGuide.

Letter 4 – Cream Spot Ladybird Beetle from UK

Cream-spot Ladybird?
Hello again
After a good morning’s insect spotting in the UK in Hertfordshire, i came across this ladybird which i believe is called a ‘cream-spot ladybird’?
All the best Ben

Hi Ben,
Thanks for sending in the photo of the Cream Spot Ladybird, Calvia 14-guttata. We actually have done many identification for our friends across the pond, but they are not organized by location, and readers need to sift through our taxonically organized pages to find them. Wood Wasps and Sphinx Moths are common query subjects.

Letter 5 – 7-Spot Ladybird Beetle

7-spot ladybird beetle
One of our native ladybird beetles, which we are seeing less and less with the increased proliferation of the asian multicoloured ladybeetles.
Nadjia

Hi again Nadjia,
Thank you for your contribution and the poignant reminder that invasive species are crowding out native species.

Letter 6 – Spotted Lady Beetle

Lady Beetle? (Anna, TX)
Location: Anna TX
Hello, and greetings from North Texas,
I seem to have cucumber plants infested with what I am hoping are lady beetles. These are not the usual round little tanks I remember from growing up, but are a bit longer. The cucumber plant is extremely healthy, as are the nearby dill and basil. That is the main reason I’m thinking they are lady beetles. If nothing else, I seem to have a “pink” one. And a really good photo of the red one.
I guess I’m looking for confirmation that these are definitely lady beetles.
Angi

Hi Angi,
These are indeed Spotted Lady Beetles, Coleomegilla maculata.

Letter 7 – Pine Lady Beetle, not Two Spotted Ladybird Beetle: unusual color form

Here’s a ladybird?? I found today
I’m so curious …I had never seen this bug in my garden before and I am assuming it’s a ladybird of some sort. I just released a couple of cartons of ladybirds about 2 weeks ago in my garden but none looked like this. Thanks in advance for taking a peek at this one
Sandra

hi Sandra,
This greatly resembles a photo we found on BugGuide listed as an “unusual colour form” of Adalia bipunctata, the Two Spotted Ladybird Beetle.

Correction: (05/11/2008)
Hi, Daniel:
A couple quick corrections to recent postings, if I may: … The “Two-spotted ladybird beetle: unusual color form” is actually a “pine lady beetle” in the genus Mulsantia. M. picta is the common species, but this may be a different one. Otherwise, spot on as usual:-) Keep up the great work! Cheers,
Eric

Letter 8 – Twenty Spotted Lady Beetle, we believe

Subject: Daniel – Twenty-Spotted Lady Beetle?
Location: Hawthorne, CA
August 28, 2013 5:34 pm
Hi Daniel, I’m hoping you can confirm my identification of this small lady beetle that I fished out of the bird bath this morning.
Signature: Thank you, Anna Carreon

Twenty Spotted Lady Beetle
Twenty Spotted Lady Beetle

Hi Anna,
This individual does resemble the Twenty Spotted Lady Beetle,
Psyllobora vigintimaculata, posted to BugGuide.  Until someone indicates otherwise, we will post is as a Twenty Spotted Lady Beetle, though there does appear to be considerable variation as other images posted on BugGuide appear different.

Hi Daniel,
Thanks for your response.  Did you choose not to post this?  I don’t see it at your site.
Anna

Hi Anna,
Thursday is a very long day at the real job, and this was the only posting our tiny editorial staff had time to prepare before heading off to a fourteen hour work day at the start of the new semester.  Alas, we neglected to hit the “publish” button and the posting never went live until Friday morning, so while it appears that we didn’t post anything new on August 29, that was because of an accidental oversight and too much running around preparing for a busy day yesterday.  Thanks for keeping us on our toes.

Letter 9 – Ten Spotted Lady Beetle from Hawaii

What Do Ladybugs Do In The WinterSubject: Lady bug or mimic?
Location: Honolulu, HI
March 26, 2017 2:40 am
Hi.
My husband found this bug on our cribbage board and, after much reaearch, I can’t figure out what it is. I can’t find a single ladybug/bird that matches the color and spot pattern. I found the Anatis mali matched the spots, but the pattern and color of the pronotum doesn’t match.
Signature: Sierra

Ten Spotted Lady Beetle

Dear Sierra,
We believe we have correctly identified your Ten Spotted Lady Beetle,
Bothrocalvia pupillata, thanks to this posting on BugGuide.  The species is also pictured on iNaturalist and on Lady Beetles of Hawai’i.

Letter 10 – Mating Seven Spotted Lady Beetles in Hawaii

Subject:  Lady beetle bug love, Hawaii
Geographic location of the bug:  Pukalani, Maui
Date: 10/15/2017
Time: 11:39 AM EDT
Aloha – On a milkweed plant, nurtured for the Monarch caterpillars use, I found this pair of lady beetles planning the next generation. Yes, there were yellow aphids on the plant which I’ve seen one of the lady beetles near. Thanks for all the informative posts.
How you want your letter signed:  Eliza

Mating Seven Spotted Lady Beetles

Dear Eliza,
We identified this amorous pair as Seven Spotted Lady Beetles,
Coccinella septempunctata, thanks to an online article published by the University of Hawaii entitled “Not All Lady Beetles are Created Equal:  Learn about different Types of Lady Beetles in Hawaii with Special Talent“.  Alas, we cannot currently access BugGuide where this species is represented because we would like to verify its native range since so many species currently found on Hawaii have been introduced.  According to Arkive, the Seven Spotted Lady Beetle might be native to Europe.  Arkive states:  “Ladybirds are perhaps the most well-known and popular of all British beetles, and the seven-spot ladybird is one of the commonest species. This rounded beetle has bright red wing cases with 7 black spots, although some individuals may have more or fewer spots. The thorax is black with patches of pale yellow at the front corners. The common name of this group of beetles, ‘ladybird’, was originally given to the seven-spot in honour of the Virgin Mary; the red wing cases symbolising the Virgin’s red cloak, with the seven spots representing her seven joys and seven sorrows.”  Our previous research on the Seven Spotted Lady Beetle indicates “According to BugGuide:  ‘It has been repeatedly introduced in the US from Europe, to control aphids.  This widespread palearctic species was intentionally introduced into N. America several times from 1956 to 1971 for biological control of aphids. All of those attempts apparently failed in getting C. septempunctata established, but in 1973 an established population was found in Bergen Co., New Jersey. This population is thought to have been the result of an accidental introduction rather than a purposeful one (Angalet and Jacques, 1975). Since 1973, this species has spread naturally and been colonized and established in Delaware, Georgia, and Oklahoma. (Gordon 1985) It has since spread throughout N. Amer.'”

Mahalo for you extensive paragraph on the 7 spotted Lady Beetles in Bug Love. Yes, many hitchhiking bugs now make Hawaii home. The Madagascar gold dust day gecko has appeared in my carport over the past week. Eeeek!
Sending the attached 23 sec vid for your review of the wiggling male. I was rather surprised to see his action, since most bug mating is static.
Eliza

Letter 11 – Fifteen Spotted Lady Beetle

Do Ladybugs Damage PlantsSubject:  What type ladybeetle
Geographic location of the bug:  Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Date: 03/30/2019
Time: 05:27 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Never have seen this one before.  Native?
How you want your letter signed:  Dawn

Fifteen Spotted Lady Beetle

Dear Dawn,
We are quite confident we have correctly identified your Fifteen Spotted Lady Beetle,
Anatis labiculata, thanks to this BugGuide image.  According to BugGuide:  “Like other Anatis species, Fifteen-spotted Lady Beetles darken with age. In the oldest individuals, the spots may not be visible against the dark background color.”

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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2 thoughts on “The Spotted Lady Beetle Explained: What You Need to Know”

  1. Will these lady beetles harm or help my corn? also that flying black bug with two orange stripes on it. Will it hurt my corn? thanks first garden and I see lots of bugs.

    Reply
    • These Lady Beetles will not harm your corn. They may eat Aphids or other small pest species in a cultivated garden. Only one known species of Lady Beetle will feed on plants, and this is not it. We don’t know what black and orange striped bug you are talking about.

      Reply

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