What Do Ladybugs Eat? Incredible Pest Eaters of The Garden

Ladybugs are beneficial insects in the garden, feeding on several pests that worry gardeners. So what do ladybugs eat, and what about their larvae? Let’s find out what these bugs love to munch on.

Known for their voracious appetites for pests, ladybugs are extremely helpful in gardens. A single ladybug is capable of devouring up to 5,000 insects throughout its lifetime. 

Besides being a beneficial insect, these cute red bugs with black spots also make for great pets. 

Let’s check out what these ladybugs eat so you can figure out a suitable food source if you want to keep them in your home.

What Do Ladybugs Eat

What Do Various Types of Ladybugs Eat?

Although you can find various species of ladybugs out there, most of them look quite similar to each other. 

However, you can still classify them into two broad types based on color – red and orange. So, let’s explore and find out what different types of ladybugs eat.

What Do Red Ladybugs Eat?

Like most ladybeetles, red ladybugs mostly feed on soft-bodied insects. Aphids account for the majority of their diet. 

This type of ladybug also loves eating spider mites, scale insects, mealybugs, and whiteflies. Do note that although ladybugs are mostly insectivores, they can also feed on plant matter like leaves or flowers.

What Do Yellow (or Orange) Ladybugs Eat?

Typically the yellow or orange ladybugs that you see in your gardens are Asian ladybeetles, a species of ladybugs that have been brought here from Asia.

These ladybugs have a distinct M-shaped white mark on their heads and usually have more spots than red ladybugs.

What Do Ladybugs Eat

Anyhow – as far as their diets are concerned, Yellow ladybugs are no different from their red counterparts – they are also voracious eaters of aphids, spider mites, and other soft-bodied insects. 

The only difference is that these bugs can also be pests once they get rid of the aphids – they start to feed on apples in your orchard if there are no insects around.

What Insects Do Ladybugs Eat?

Generally speaking, ladybugs eat a variety of soft-bodied insects that they can easily sink their teeth into. 

These include a wide variety of harmful pests, making ladybugs a natural predator that you should keep in the garden. 

Let’s get a more specific look at which of the common household and garden insects count as ladybug food.

Do Ladybugs Eat Mealybugs?

Mealybugs are tiny soft-bodied insects, and hence an ideal prey for ladybugs. 

These pests are notorious not only for the direct damage they cause to crops and plants but also for the plant diseases they spread. 

Introducing ladybugs in your garden is one of the best ways to control mealybugs naturally.

Do Lady Bugs Eat Ants?

Although ants might seem like ideal prey for ladybugs due to their small size, the reality is quite the opposite. Ladybugs hunt soft-bodied insects, while ants have tough exoskeletons. 

You may still find ladybugs and ants clashing with each other. This is usually due to rivalry over food – ladybugs eat aphids that the ants farm for honeydew

Ants may also attack a ladybug in defense if it gets too close to their nest.

What Do Ladybugs Eat

Do Lady Bugs Eat Springtails?

If you have springtails infesting your home, feel free to feed them to your ladybugs. These soft-bodied insects are a common problem in homes with damp interiors.

Although they are usually harmless, springtails can sometimes chew plant roots and damage seedlings. Besides, a large springtail infestation can be a nuisance.

Do Ladybugs Eat Thrips?

Thrips fall under the list of pests commonly preyed upon by ladybugs too. 

The fact that both adult ladybugs and ladybug larvae hunt and eat thrips makes them even more effective against these pests. 

Additionally, ladybugs are also known to feed on their eggs, so basically, they will finish off thrips completely from your garden.

Will Ladybugs Eat Aphids?

Ladybugs have earned their formidable reputation as beneficial insects mostly from their appetite for aphids. 

An adult ladybug can consume over 50 aphids in a single day. These generalist predators are so effective against aphids that people often buy them as a form of aphid control.

Here’s a video of a ladybug cleaning out a whole bunch of aphids in just a few minutes:

Do Ladybugs Eat Fungus Gnats?

Fungus gnats are another annoying pest that ladybugs can help you get rid of. Unfortunately, ladybugs can only hunt adult fungus gnats. 

As these pests lay their eggs in the soil and the larvae remain underground, ladybugs can’t hunt them until they emerge as adults. 

Hence, ladybugs can help you control and prevent a fungus gnat infestation, but they won’t eliminate the pests.

Do Ladybugs Eat Spider Mites?

Ladybugs eat spider mites, but they aren’t as voracious at it as when eating other pests like aphids. 

This is because spider mites aren’t a preferred source of nutrition for ladybugs, and the latter would usually fly away to find something better. 

Besides, ladybugs aren’t that good at managing spider mite infestation, as spider mites reproduce and grow in numbers rapidly.

What Do Ladybugs Eat

Do Ladybugs Eat Scale?

Yes, ladybugs also eat scales – which is yet another reason to bring ladybugs into your garden. 

Scales are a major garden pest known for weakening plants and causing them to wilt by sucking out plant sap. Heavy infestations may even cause your plants to die.

What do Baby Ladybugs Eat?

Not sure what to feed the baby ladybugs? Don’t worry; they have a similar diet as adults and feed on aphids, fruit flies, mites, and other pests. 

Adult ladybugs already have a reputation for being voracious feeds, but their larvae can easily put them to shame in this regard. 

They can wreak havoc on aphid populations, devouring them and their eggs in large numbers. This is why ladybug larvae are considered to be even better for pest control than adult ladybugs.

Ladybug eggs hatch within three to ten days. The larval stage takes about a month, followed by a 15-day pupal stage.

The lifespan of an adult ladybug can vary greatly, ranging from 2-3 months to a year.   

What Do Ladybugs Eat

How Often Do Ladybugs Eat?

Ladybugs are opportunistic eaters and eat almost all day long whenever they come across food. As larvae, they start eating from the moment they hatch. However, ladybugs mostly feed during the day and aren’t very active at night.

What Do Ladybugs Eat in the Winter?

Despite the reputation they’ve earned for their ravenous appetite, ladybugs completely stop eating in winter

This is because ladybugs are cold-blooded and need to hibernate in a safe place protected from the cold. 

They usually gather in large numbers in a suitable spot and overwinter together. During this time, they survive on fat reserves built up during the summer and do not go out to hunt. 

This is possibly one reason behind their aggressive feeding habit in summer – to build up fat reserves for winter.

How To Attract Ladybugs to Your Home?

Let’s say you want to integrate ladybugs into your pest control strategy to deal with an aphid infestation or prevent one. Here’s how you can attract those friendly bugs to your property:

  • Don’t use pesticides: Firstly, pesticides and natural predators can’t go hand in hand. You’ll have to refrain from using pesticides if you’re going to bring in ladybugs.
  • Provide water: Providing a water source for ladybugs is a good way to draw their attention and make them stop by your garden. You may use damp paper towels or shallow bowls of water for this purpose.
  • Offer a shelter: Mulch, leaves, and groundcover plants make good hideouts for ladybugs, where they can be safe from predators. If you feel like getting craftier, you may also build a small ladybug house.
  • Attract ladybugs with aphids: Although the whole purpose of this is to control the aphid population in your garden, letting them grow in numbers is a clever way to attract ladybugs. You can do this in a safe and controlled manner by keeping aphid trap plants that would draw a large number of aphids but keep them together.

If nothing else works, you can always buy them online and release them in your garden.

What Do Ladybugs Eat

How To Feed a Ladybug?

If you’re raising ladybugs in captivity, you might be wondering how to feed them. 

Considering ladybugs primarily survive on an insectivorous diet, feeding them aphids and other suitable pests is the best choice. 

It might be a little tricky, but you can farm feeder insects like springtails at home to feed your ladybugs.

If procuring insects seems too difficult or you can’t find enough, you may feed your ladybug lettuce, raisins, and honey instead. 

Honey is particularly good for ladybugs and gives them energy. You can put a bit of honey in a bottlecap, add a few drops of water, and put it in the ladybug enclosure. 

As for the raisins, you’d want to soak them in water for a while first and offer them together with a lettuce leaf.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Do Orange Ladybugs Eat?

Orange ladybugs have a similar diet as the red ones. In the wild, they feed soft-bodied insects like aphids, scales, mealybugs, fungus gnats, etc. 

Besides these pests, orange ladybugs are also known to feed on plant matter from time to time. However, they don’t harm wood, clothing, or other household items.

Do Ladybugs Eat Clothes?

Don’t worry; your clothes are safe from native ladybugs overwintering in your home. Ladybugs don’t feed on or damage any type of fabric at all, be it clothes, curtains, or bedding. 

It’s the Asian ladybeetles that leave stinky stains on curtains and are often confused with ladybugs.

What Do Ladybugs Eat

What is the ladybug’s favorite food?

Aphids are, hands-down, the favorite food for ladybugs, which is why the latter is one of the best countermeasures against aphid infestations. 

Besides aphids, ladybugs also love to feed on other insects like mealybugs and springtails.

Can you keep a ladybug as a pet?

Yes, ladybugs make excellent pets for those who love raising insects. However, you’ll have to let them go eventually. 

Ladybugs cannot survive longer than a couple of weeks in captivity. Once they pupate and emerge as adults, release them within a week.

Wrapping up

Getting ladybugs for your garden shouldn’t be too hard as certain species, like the seven-spotted ladybug, are very common in North America. 

However, be careful not to raise the Mexican bean beetle or the spotted cucumber beetle by mistake – they look like ladybugs but are severe pests. 

Thank you for reading, and I hope your endeavor to raise ladybugs will be a success.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our readers have left us many emails inquiring about which pests these ladybugs can help them eliminate from their gardens.

Read on to learn more about their experiences with ladybugs.

Letter 1 – Cream Streaked Lady Beetle from Portugal

 

Ed. Note:  This posting was created from a followup correspondence from Curious Girl who submitted some photos of Lady Beetle Larvae for identification.  The addition of images of a different species of an adult Lady Beetle resulted in a distinct posting. Subject: Lady Bird Nymphs* from Portugal Location: Portugal January 28, 2014 Danke Daniel (I am in Germany at the moment, soon to return to my beloved Portugal), It’s hard to keep all the insect terms straight but that’s what is so great about the site is it educates us neophytes :^D So, the 7 spot at least I have pics of in her (his) adult form as well, but in Porto (about 30km or so southwest). And a couple others since I’m here and a little loopy tired… So glad to know what I was seeing. Seems the 7 spot is native then to Europe even if the other is not. Funny how humans have so changed the world even beyond the Asian Lady. :^) Muito obrigada to Mardikavana for the IDs. Awesome! Later I’ll send some of the Asian variety spotted (ha ha) in Germany. :^)
Unknown Lady Beetle from Portugal
Cream Streaked Lady Beetle from Portugal
Hi again Curious Girl, We have posted your new photos of a Lady Beetle, but we have not had any luck determining the species. Ed. Note:  Thanks to a comment from Curious Girl, we now know that this is a Cream Streaked Lady Beetle, Harmonia quadripunctata, which is pictured on Wikimedia Commons .
Lady Beetle
Cream Streaked Lady Beetle
 

Letter 2 – Lady Beetles from Portugal

 

Ed. Note:  February 3, 2013 This posting originally began as an addition to a Lady Beetle Larvae posting, but things got a bit complicated due to incorrect identifications, so we have retroactively created a new posting to try to address the errors. Subject: Lady Beetles from Portugal Location: Guimarães, Portugal January 29, 2014 Danke Daniel (I am in Germany at the moment, soon to return to my beloved Portugal), It’s hard to keep all the insect terms straight but that’s what is so great about the site is it educates us neophytes :^D So, the 7 spot at least I have pics of in her (his) adult form as well, but in Porto (about 30km or so southwest). And a couple others since I’m here and a little loopy tired… So glad to know what I was seeing. Seems the 7 spot is native then to Europe even if the other is not. Funny how humans have so changed the world even beyond the Asian Lady. :^) Muito obrigada to Mardikavana for the IDs. Awesome! Later I’ll send some of the Asian variety spotted (ha ha) in Germany. :^)
Seven Spotted Lady Beetle
Lady Beetle
Hi again Curious Girl, Neither species is native to North America, and BugGuide did not indicate if both are European.  We will do additional research on the Fourteen Spotted Lady Beetle.  According to Discover Life:  “Propylaea quatuordecimpunctata is a European lady beetle that was probably accidentally introduced to North America by shipping in the St. Lawrence Seaway in the late 1960’s. These distinctively coloured little (4 or 5mm) beetles did not show up in Ontario until the 1990s, and only became common in the late 1990’s.” Comment from Mardikavana Actually both seven-spot ladybird and 14-spotted ladybird are widespread in Paleartic ecozone and thus can be found in Europe and Asia. The depicted imago on the lower picture is not seven-spot ladybird. Are there more photos of that ladybird imago? Update:  February 3, 2014 Mardikavana is indeed correct. I’m guessing the last image posted of the adult Lady is actually an Adonis Ladybird (Hippodamia/Adonia variegata) instead. My apologies. I just assumed 7 spots meant… http://www.ladybird-survey.org/species_desc.aspx?species=6455%2059101 http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/adonis-ladybird But what a cool name. =} And they seem to be one of two lady varieties that bears maternally inherited flavobacteria that kill males only making them truly “ladies” I guess. aka: Variabler Flach-Marienkäfer in German which means Variable Flat Lady Beetle. Anyway, I do not have other pics that are very good of this particular lady bug but will send what I have (at bottom). Maybe the other pic I sent previously that was not put up is indeed the 7-spot (so I’ll enclose that again as well). =D I had not been intended to take a picture of her, rather of the flower she’s on, but she showed up just as I was clicking the shutter and pulled it out of focus… it turns out tho I have one of her I’d forgotten about, before she landed on the flower as she’d been on my hand.
Lady Beetle
Lady Beetle
Dear Curious Girl, In our feeble attempt to try to maintain accuracy, we have removed all unverified specific identifications on your original posting of Lady Beetle Larvae, and created a new posting with four of your photos of Lady Beetles.  Mardikavana has indicated that the first image is not a Seven Spotted Lady Beetle.  You have sent five additional images, and we are guessing they are all the same individual, but we are unclear if they are different from the misidentified photo we had already posted.  We are posting three of your new images and we are not identifying any to the species level at this time.
Lady Beetle from Portugal
Lady Beetle from Portugal
No, sorry that is my fault for not being more clear about what I was sending. Mardikavana asked for additional photos of the last picture (the imago which I had to look up to understand is the adult). So I sent 3 more of that individual (one that I believe is an Adonis — those were the first 3 photos). Then two more of a different one that I believe is indeed a 7-spot (including a repeat of a picture I sent previously that was not posted before with the original one that Mardikavana says is not a 7-Spot but which I believe is the Adonis). The Adonis was found at Crystal Park in Porto in July while the other was from a couple months earlier in April near the Riberia in Porto. Both were 2013.
Lady Beetle from Portugal
Lady Beetle from Portugal
Dear Curious Girl, We are still confused.  There is a new posting.  Please provide a comment on that posting regarding which photos are the same individual.  Photos that you are calling the first three do not necessarily justify according to your numbering when we receive the email.  

Letter 3 – Ladybird Beetle

 

Twice-stabbed Ladybug? Wed, Nov 19, 2008 at 10:21 AM I believe this is a twice-stabbed ladybug. I did not see a photo on your ladybug page of this species. It was photographed in southern Utah. Mieander Southern Utah
Ladybird Beetle
Ladybird Beetle
Hi Mieander, While it is possible that this is a Twice-Stabbed Ladybird Beetle, Chilocorus stigma , there is another species in the genus that is found in your area that has larger spots.  According to BugGuide, Chilocorus cacti, is found in Arizona and New Mexico, but it looks like a better match.  The species is associated with Prickly Pear cactus.

Letter 4 – Ladybird Beetle from London

 

Subject: 11-spot ladybird (Coccinella 11-punctata)? Location: London February 3, 2014 4:40 am Hey Daniel, Since I’ve been sending in Lady Beetle pics I thought I’d add this one too of one from London who I found on my beet greens from the Ally Pally (Alexandra Palace) Farmers Market. Best I can tell is s/he might be an 11-spot lady. http://www.ladybird-survey.org/species_desc.aspx?species=6455%2059605 Signature: Curious Girl
11-Spot Ladybird Beetle
11-Spot Ladybird Beetle
Dear Curious Girl, Thanks for sending us another one of the Lady Beetles you have encountered in your travels.

Letter 5 – Ladybird Beetle from Malay

 

Subject: Motag Living Museum Location: Malay Aklan Rice fields February 13, 2014 8:53 pm Hi I have now managed to get a fairly decent photo of the bug in question it is a little smaller that n a lday bird and looks like one but has not spots. These are prevalent her in the rice fields. I am assuming this is an aphid eater. could you tell me the name of the bug and let me know what it eats please. Signature: Louise of Motag Living Museum
Lady Beetle
Lady Beetle
Dear Louise, We agree that this is a Lady Beetle, but we cannot provide species information.  Suspect most likely that it is a predatory species that feeds upon Aphids and other small insects.

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.

13 thoughts on “What Do Ladybugs Eat? Incredible Pest Eaters of The Garden”

  1. Hey Daniel, I think this Lady Beetle is “Harmonian Quadripunctata” or the highly variable (like the Asian) 4 Spot, aka Cream-Streaked Lady.

    The 4 Spot/Cream-Streaked is supposed to have red legs and be smaller than the Asian which as you can see seems true as I have small hands but s/he makes my fingers seem large.

    They also have an almost “w” (or “m”) on their pronotum (carapace?) similar to the Asian but it’s more of a spotted, connect the dots version.

    This one flew onto my bed in July 2013, and I thought s/he was beautiful.

    My understanding though is that s/he may have just emerged and that the spots and color on the pronotum would get darker with age. Not sure if that’s true or not…

    Reply
  2. Hey Daniel, I think this Lady Beetle is “Harmonian Quadripunctata” or the highly variable (like the Asian) 4 Spot, aka Cream-Streaked Lady.

    The 4 Spot/Cream-Streaked is supposed to have red legs and be smaller than the Asian which as you can see seems true as I have small hands but s/he makes my fingers seem large.

    They also have an almost “w” (or “m”) on their pronotum (carapace?) similar to the Asian but it’s more of a spotted, connect the dots version.

    This one flew onto my bed in July 2013, and I thought s/he was beautiful.

    My understanding though is that s/he may have just emerged and that the spots and color on the pronotum would get darker with age. Not sure if that’s true or not…

    Reply
  3. Okay, 3 of these pictures are of the “Adonis” Lady taken in July while the one on the yellow flower and the one that is not put up that was on my hand is I believe the 7-spot which would correspond to the the larvae but I will let you and Mardikavana sort it out.

    Until then I will celebrate that I’ve had one of the most active couple posts here this week… =]

    Obrigada!

    Reply
  4. Okay, 3 of these pictures are of the “Adonis” Lady taken in July while the one on the yellow flower and the one that is not put up that was on my hand is I believe the 7-spot which would correspond to the the larvae but I will let you and Mardikavana sort it out.

    Until then I will celebrate that I’ve had one of the most active couple posts here this week… =]

    Obrigada!

    Reply
  5. Turns out the “Adonis” nameplate is actually a Britishism and these are called “Variegated” in the US. They are a tiny & elongated variety.

    Reply
  6. Interesting. This does look quite like Chilocorus cacti, but this is probably the most northern record of that species if so. So far I have seen no evidence that Chilocorus stigma can have large markings like this (except perhaps in very, very rare mutations, which I’ve never seen documented at present).

    The best way to identify the species is to flip the beetle over and check the underside. Note that it’ll drop and fly away as soon as you disturb it, so best to have a hand or container underneath so you can catch it.

    Reply
  7. Interesting. This does look quite like Chilocorus cacti, but this is probably the most northern record of that species if so. So far I have seen no evidence that Chilocorus stigma can have large markings like this (except perhaps in very, very rare mutations, which I’ve never seen documented at present).

    The best way to identify the species is to flip the beetle over and check the underside. Note that it’ll drop and fly away as soon as you disturb it, so best to have a hand or container underneath so you can catch it.

    Reply

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