Most insects disappear during the winter, and so do ladybugs. But they come back in the spring – so what do ladybugs do in the winter for warmth and food? Check out the article to learn more.
Ladybugs are hands down one of the most beautiful beetles out there, and their presence is great to have in the garden.
These colorful bugs are also beneficial and can rid your garden of aphids and other garden pests.
Seeing your garden’s ladybugs disappear in the winter might make you wonder where they have gone and if they’re going to come back.
Let us find out about the ladybug’s overwintering habits.
What Do Ladybugs Do in Winter?
While you might find the sudden disappearance of the ladybugs to be worrisome, it’s completely normal. As the temperatures drop, ladybugs can no longer survive in the open.
All types of ladybugs are cold-blooded insects, which means they need to conserve their body temperature to survive the winter.
To achieve this, ladybugs spend the winter hibernating in warmer areas protected from the cold.
This is why you don’t see any ladybugs hunting aphids on your plants in the winter months.
The overwintering process
As you likely know, aphids are a ladybug’s favorite food. These beetles also rely on the aphid population to know when to overwinter.
Once the cold weather begins to set in, aphid populations drop significantly. This is when ladybugs go off looking for safe spaces to spend the winter.
When a ladybug finds a suitable spot, it releases pheromones to attract more of its species.
Pheromones are chemical signals that reach significant distances, drawing the attention of other ladybugs in the vicinity.
Following the signal, more ladybugs end up there and cluster together, similar to forming a colony.
Although ladybugs aren’t social insects, they gather in large numbers to overwinter. Each cluster may comprise hundreds or even thousands of ladybugs.
The clustering behavior of ladybugs helps them in several ways – keeping them warm, offering better protection against predators, and making it easy to find mates later.
They hibernate together until the warmer months, i.e., spring. As the temperatures rise back to comfortable levels, they come out of their hibernation and mate.
We guess you’re wondering where the ladybugs are spending the winter and if they have left your garden.
They may or may not still be on your property, depending on whether they found a suitable place to hibernate.
In the wild, ladybugs usually overwinter in large clusters under tree barks and inside rock crevices.
If your garden has such sheltered spaces where the ladybugs can safely overwinter, there’s a chance that they are still there.
Even better – that may have attracted a huge number of ladybugs from the outside to join them.
Apart from the usual overwintering spots mentioned earlier, it’s also common for ladybugs to hole up in wall cracks or even indoors.
The warmth of indoor environments attracts ladybugs, and they often cluster up in undisturbed corners.
Ladybird feeding habits in winter
Considering ladybugs are primarily insectivores, and they stop hunting in the winter, one might wonder how they survive the cold months.
They cannot go out in the cold in search of prey and spend the season huddled up in their overwintering spot.
Well, they eat nothing during this period. Instead, they start using up excess fat reserves stored in their body.
Ladybugs build up stored fat during the summer by feeding voraciously on soft-bodied insects.
In case you have ever wondered why these tiny beetles have such a monstrous appetite, this is one of the key reasons.
It ensures that they won’t have to hunt during the winter, helping them survive till spring. The fact that they enter a state of hibernation during the winter helps too.
It decreases their bodily energy requirements, which is how those tiny fat reserves are enough for the winter months.
Will the Ladybugs Be Coming Back?
Don’t worry, the ladybugs aren’t permanently gone. They will re-emerge during the warmer months, at the end of their hibernation.
Female ladybugs usually live for at least two to three months more, during which they mate with several males, fertilize, and lay eggs.
This means your beloved beetles will once again be active in spring and will continue to hunt aphids.
However, there’s a catch – ladybugs usually migrate after mating.
Where Do Ladybirds Migrate, and Why Do They Do It?
This means even if you have a huge cluster of lady beetles overwintering on your property during the winter, that may not be around anymore in spring.
They leave in search of places with plenty of food and shelter soon after they’re done hibernating.
The females, in particular, need to find good spots to lay their eggs.
How To Keep Ladybugs in Your Garden?
You could get ladybugs to stay in your garden in spring by giving them exactly what they need.
Building a ladybug house or setting up a patch of mulch is a good way to provide them with a shelter safe from predators.
Also, put out shallow water bowls for the lady beetles to drink from.
If your garden has a mild aphid infestation that isn’t big enough to attract ladybugs, consider using decoy trap plants.
These plants would attract the aphids and in turn, draw the attention of the ladybugs.
Can Ladybugs Overwintering in Your Home Cause Any Damage?
Even if you love ladybugs, seeing a whole bunch of them infesting your home might be a little scary.
After all, regardless of how fond you’re of these cute little beetles, you can’t afford to let them damage your home.
Various home-infesting pests are notorious for causing damages that lead to expensive repairs.
Thankfully, this isn’t the case with ladybugs. Ladybugs are completely harmless and won’t damage your home in any way.
They won’t bore holes in any wooden furniture or chew up your clothes, either. The only issue that you might face is the nuisance caused by their presence.
Ladybugs often get a bad reputation for staining curtains and releasing foul odors, but Asian lady beetles are the actual culprit behind those.
These beetles look very similar to native ladybugs and are easy to misidentify. Asian lady beetles often release a toxic liquid from their legs, especially when threatened.
This liquid is what releases the odor mentioned earlier and causes stains on curtains and carpets.
Ladybug Life Cycle
Given that ladybugs spend several months hibernating, you may now be curious about their life cycle. These beetles live about a year or so and go through four distinct life cycle stages.
- Egg: Usually laid in clusters or lines, ladybug eggs are yellow. These eggs take two to ten days to hatch.
- Larvae: The larval stage of a ladybug’s life cycle is approximately two weeks long. The larvae go through four stages of molting, known as instars. You might want to note that it’s during the larval stage that ladybugs are the most active at hunting aphids.
- Pupae: After completing the four instars as larvae, ladybugs enter the pupal stage. They usually pupate on plant leaves, and the process takes anything between 7 to 15 days.
- Adults: Adult ladybugs generally emerge from pupae in July or August. Now they get the spotted and colorful look that we’re familiar with. They remain active until around October, i.e., the beginning of winter. During this period, they constantly feed on insects, insect larvae, and eggs. As described in detail earlier, the lady beetles remain in hibernation until spring, followed by mating and laying eggs.
Frequently Asked Questions
What to do if you find a ladybug in the winter?
If you find a ladybug in the winter, the best course of action is to leave it be and allow it to hibernate.
In case you need to move ladybugs from their overwintering spot, at least place them near cover.
You don’t have to worry about keeping them close to a food source as they do not eat during this time.
Can a ladybug survive outside in winter?
Ladybugs can survive outside in winter, but only in sheltered spaces. In the wild, they usually huddle up together under tree bark and inside rock crevices.
If you have a large number of ladybugs in your home during the winter and need to put them back out, place them near such areas if possible.
Why do I find ladybugs in my house in winter?
Finding ladybugs in indoor areas during the winter is quite normal. They move inside houses to escape the cold temperatures outside.
Being cold-blooded insects, ladybugs cannot survive in the open when the temperatures drop too low.
Should I release a ladybug in the winter?
It’s best not to release a ladybug outside in the winter, as the cold temperatures might kill it.
Besides, they would serve no purpose outdoors as they stopped preying on pests during the winter months.
If you have to release a ladybug because its presence in your home bothers you, at least leave it in a sheltered space protected from the cold.
Almost all species of ladybugs in North America spend their winters hibernating in the coziness of a shelter.
The hibernation period may be smaller in warmer climates with shorter winters.
This type of beetle is good to have on your property as long as its presence doesn’t grow too heavy for your liking.
Just watch out for Asian lady beetles – you can identify them by the W-mark on the back of their heads.
Ladybugs play a crucial role in the food chains of the ecosystem, preventing the population of plant-damaging pests from getting too high.
If you find any hibernating ladybugs, it would be a good idea to help them stay safe from predators and cold weather.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you found this article worthwhile.