Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home—
Your house is on fire and your children all gone!
All except one and that's little Ann,
and she's crept under the warming pan.
Do you remember this old English poem? Maybe not, but the Ladybird beetle (or 'Ladybug') is one that often delights children and adults alike. To spot (no pun intended!) a little red half-dome in the garden will bring smiles on the face of even the most taciturn.
There are a large number of types Ladybirds or Ladybugs; if you were to do a google or yahoo search, your mind would be boggled! This insect undergoes complete metamorphosis, like the butterfly, and is considered a beneficial bug during its larval and adult stages.
Here is a Cycloneda sanguinea or Spotless Ladybird hunting for Aphids on an Asclepias curassavica 'Silky Gold' blossom. To answer the age-old question that elementary children will often ask, "No, you can't tell if a Ladybug is a boy or girl from the number of spots it has." Some species have none, some have seven, some even have 20! There are even different colours of these dainties, er, meat-eaters.
A female will oviposit 300 to 3000 eggs in her lifetime (depends on the species). A Ladybug's lifetime is generally longer than that of most butterflies—from three to six weeks (many butterflies live for only about two weeks). The eggs are laid in small clusters on the undersides of leaves. The shape? Think of a football! So, if you see little football-like clusters of yellow eggs, chances are fairly likely that you have come across Ladybug eggs. Mama Ladybugs often lay around 24 to 30 a day in these clusters. They are fairly easy to determine once you've seen them with your own eyes…you won't likely forget it!
The eggs begin to darken when the little ones are ready to hatch.
After about three days, a strange looking creature hatches that looks NOTHING like the cute creature we know and love. Nope, in fact, I bet many people have been in their gardens, seen this thing, and squished it! This creepy thing, believe it or not, is the Ladybug's BABY!
That's right, it is the larva of the Ladybird Beetle…amazing, isn't it? (Think of the butterfly's baby…the caterpillar…and how many people have squished, killed, sprayed caterpillars because they didn't realize that those wormy things turned into butterflies).
This little one has spotted some delicious Oleander Aphids lurking on the stems of a Milkweed plant. Mmmm…Notice this one has more colour than the one in the previous picture. This one is several days older (the previous one is just two days old).
The larval stage lasts around three weeks (21 days or so) and this time is wonderful for gardeners. Why? Well, Ladybird Beetle larvae are insectivores and will devour many of the bugs you don't want in your garden. They are considered a 'beneficial insect' so having them around is a good thing. In fact, during the larval stage, these babies can eat upwards of 300 Aphids! WOW! So, if you do see these strange-looking critters, be sure to give them the right of way and say, "Thanks!" Of course, on the other hand, if you raise butterflies, use care in collecting your butterfly eggs and larva because the Ladybird larvae will EAT the butterfly eggs/larvae. OH, and they may also eat one another (those little cannibals)...eeuwww!
Soon, it is time to pupate. The pupal stage is around a week. This picture is the pupa of an Asian Ladybird Beetle (Harmonia axyridis). It is also a pupa that is close to eclosing.
Here is the adult Asian Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis).
The life-cycle is complete once the adult ecloses, shedding its pupal case, and is free to go out and eat insects!