Ladybirds, known in the Northern States as ladybugs, are not true bugs. Scientists list them as beetles, so their proper names are lady beetles and ladybird beetles.
These lovelies are found in the largest phylum (Arthropoda), class (Insecta), and order (Coleoptera), of which 6000 species spread out across 350 genera in the Coccinellidae family.
The lifespan of ladybird beetles averages 1- 2 years. If available, fertile eggs are laid in the colonies of aphids and scale insects and infertile eggs if not. This is to ensure the larvae have plenty of food when they first hatch.
The larvae molt about 4 times in a span of 10 to 14 days, and then, they pupate. They emerge as adults in a couple of days and are ready to mate not long after.
Ladybirds range in color and size, with some mistaken for other types of beetles. They mostly have red, orange, or yellow bodies with black spots, but they can also range in color from solid black to brown.
Besides, they can possess spots, stripes, or just be plain. They are tiny (between .03 to .7 inches) and round in shape with black on their heads, legs, and antennae.
Larvae and adults have three natural defense mechanisms to keep predators from eating them. One is their shape.
They’re round, and the predators have a hard time getting leverage to pick them up. If it doesn’t help, the beetles flatten themselves against whatever they are holding on to as well.
The second is its color. Helpful predators such as birds have learned certain colors mean a bad taste.
The last is this toxin they release when they’re grabbed. It’s an alkaloid and makes them taste bad, so predators tend to drop or spit them out.
Ladybird Garden Benefits
Most ladybird beetles are quite beneficial to people, whether they are farmers, gardeners, or just the ordinary. The following are a few of them.
They are the first line of defense for anyone interested in eco-friendly ways to rid their garden, field, or orchard of pests with their voracious appetites for hundreds of different species of pests.
1. Control Aphids
Aphids are the prime source of food for most Coccinellidae species. A single ladybird insect, from larvae to adults will consume about 5000 aphids before it dies.
Should not be introduced before you see aphids because they won’t stay. There won’t be anything for them to eat.
Lady beetles are great little pollinators. They like to eat some pollen and nectar.
While roving among flowers, pollen tends to stick to them as they move about, which then fertilizes the flowers.
3. Control Spider Mites
The smell of the mites, along with the damage they do feeding in herds help the ladybirds find them.
They then walk up to it and start eating. Just one ladybug can eat up to 100 spider mites a day.
4. Control Mealybugs
Cryptolaemus montrouzieri aka Crypt or Mealybug Destroyer are the names the species that specializes in eating mealybugs are known by.
The adult female lays her eggs in the masses made by mealybugs, and the larvae eat everything they can find.
5. Corn Borer Control
In a single day, a ladybird can eat up to 60 eggs. They leave the eating of the larvae and adults to other predator insects.
6. Colorado Potato Beetle Control
They eat these potato beetle eggs wherever they find them, so they’re great at preventing an infestation before it begins.
7. Beautify the Garden
The ladybird’s appearance, with its vibrant colors and gorgeous wings, brings additional beauty to any garden it’s living in.
8. Whitefly Control
Delphastus is the species of ladybird that specialize in eating whiteflies.
60 eggs a day is a lot for one little bug, but it does it. It also walks up to adults and just eats them.
9. Control Lace Bugs
Ladybirds eat all stages of the lace bug from egg to adult thus controlling all aspects of an infestation.
10. Thrip Control
This is another insect ladybirds are effective at controlling as they eat all stages of the thrips’ life cycle — from egg to adult.
How to Attract Ladybirds to Your Garden
You can buy ladybugs for your gardens, but the consensus is that attracting them to your garden is far better.
Buying them doesn’t guarantee they will feed because of the stress of moving.
Attracting them ensures the lady beetles will dig into the feast you’re providing them. Here are a few ways:
Plant Nectar and Pollen Plants
Plant a few flowers and herbs that have white and yellow blooms and flat leaves. The flat leaves give them a place to land and the flowers provide pollen and nectar.
Some of these include marigold, angelica, calendula, yarrow, chives, feverfew, and dill.
Provide Plenty to Eat
If you don’t have enough pest insects already in the garden, you can plant some trap plants to draw in aphids — their favorite food.
Traps plants include marigold, radish, kale, sweet cabbage, roses, arugula, and nasturtium.
Quench Their Thirst
Place bowls of water with pebbles inside in and around your garden. The stones give them a place to safely rest while they drink.
Don’t Use Chemical Pesticides
Natural pesticides should be used with caution as well. Chemical pesticides will kill ladybirds outright.
Depending upon what it is, some natural ones will, at worst, kill them and best, drive them away from your garden, so be careful.
Whether you know them as ladybirds or ladybugs, these cute little beetles are not only the most helpful you can have in your garden, they are amongst the more colorful.
Appearing in early Spring, they herald in the season as it begins to warm, leaving their hiding places in buildings and the like to begin mating, laying eggs, and, of course, eating.