Beneficial Bugs...That are Actually Beetles!

Posted: Dec 31 2014

 

Everybody loves ladybugs.  But we bet that you didn't know a lot of what you're about to read about these endearing creatures.  Prepare to be amazed!

1.  Ladybugs aren't really bugs; they're beetles!  In Europe they've been called ladybird beetles for ages, but in North America, "ladybird" was replaced by "ladybug."

2.  The "lady" in ladybug refers to the Virgin Mary: Legend states that during the Middle Ages in Europe, crops were plagued by pests so the farmers began praying to the Blessed Lady, the Virgin Mary.  Soon, the farmers started seeing ladybugs in their fields, and their crops were miraculously saved from the pests.  They associated their good fortune with the black and red beetles, so they began calling them lady beetles!

3.  Ladybugs bleed from their knees when threatened!  Startle a ladybug and yellow foul-smelling fluid seeps from its leg joins.  Potential predators may be deterred by the vile stuff, and equally repulsed by the sight of a seemingly-sick beetle.  

4.  A ladybug's bright colours warn predators to stay away:  Insect-eating birds and other animals learn to avoid meals that come in red and black, and are more likely to steer clear of a meal featuring a ladybug tapas.  

5.  Over its lifetime, a ladybug may consumer as many as 5,000 aphids:  True story!  This feature of ladybugs makes them one of the most beneficial predators of plant pests causing gardeners everywhere to welcome ladybugs with open arms, knowing they will munch on the most prolific plant pests.  They particularly love scale insects, white flies, mites, and aphids.  A hungry adult ladybug can devour 50 aphids per day!

6.  Ladybug larvae resemble tiny alligatos with elongated bodies and bumpy skin:  Whaaat?!?!?

7.  Scientists believe ladybugs may lay both fertile and infertile eggs:  Why would a ladybug expend the energy required to produce eggs that will yield no offspring?  The infertile eggs provide a ready source of food for the young larvae that hatch from the fertile eggs.  When times are tough, a ladybug may lay an increased number of infertile eggs to give her babies a better chance of surviving.  

8.  Ladybug adults hibernate, usually gathering in large aggregations in protected places:  As days get shorter and temperatures fall, ladybugs seek shelter behind bark, under leaves, or in other protected locations.  Thousands of ladybugs may gather in the same location, taking advantage of the collective warmth of a colony.  

9.  Ladybugs practise cannibalism:  If food is scarce, ladybugs will do what they must to survive, even if it means eating each other!  A hungry ladybug will make a meal of any soft-bodied sibling it encounters!  They will even eat their own eggs of pupae if they've run out of aphids to provide them with protein.  

10.    You can't tell a ladybug's age by counting its spots:  The spots on the back of the ladybug have nothing to do with its age.  The species can be determined by taking note of the number and position of those markings, however.  The seven-spotted lady beetle, for example, has seven black spots on its red back.  

** Next time you're cutting the grass and these little beetles are seemingly everywhere, you'll appreciate instead of being aggravated.  They're saving you piles of time and money by taking care of the real pests! **

 

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