Ladybug or Ladybird Beetle Information

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Phylum, Arthropoda; Class, Insecta; Order, Coleoptera

Identifying Features

Appearance (Morphology)

  • Adult oval, convex and brightly colored.
  • Head is small and turned downward.
  • Nearly hemispherical in shape, like 1/2 of a pea.
  • Short legs .
  • The convergent Ladybug has 6 black spots on each wing.

Immatures (different stages)
Eggs are yellow and laid in small clusters often stuck to leaves. The eggs hatch after one week. The larvae have six legs and are very mobile, but do not have wings. They are black with small orange or white markings. The larvae molt three times before pupating. Attached to leaves, stems or rocks, the pupa is orange and black. Before the wings harden, the newly emerged adult is yellow.

Natural History

Food
Both beetle larvae and adults are active predators eating only aphids and other plant eating insects, such as scales and mites.

Habitat
Both adults and larvae live on plants frequented by aphids, including roses, oleander, milkweed and broccoli. In the winter, the adults hibernate in large groups, often in mountains at high elevations. The female beetle lays eggs only where she knows aphids are present.

Predators
Larvae are eaten by lacewing larvae. Birds attempt to eat adults but because of their "bad taste" the beetles are not ingested.

Interesting Behaviors
As a defense, ladybug adults will fall to the ground and "play dead." They also can secrete an amber bad tasting fluid from the joints in their legs.

Impact on the Ecosystem

Positive
Larval stage consumes large numbers of aphids. Adults also eat aphids.

Negative
Two injurious agricultural species are the squash beetle and the Mexican bean beetle which eat plants instead of other insects.

Collecting Live Insects

Where to find
In the spring, ladybird beetles and larvae are common on any plant with aphids or scale insects. Home vegetable and flower gardens that are organic or where no insecticides have been used may be a good place to look. Adults and larvae can be purchased from: Carolina Biological Supply Company, ARBICO, Science Kit and Boreal Laboratories, Ward's Biology.

How to collect
Use old pill bottles or small containers to gather the beetles or larvae. Hold the container below the insect and tap it into the container. If necessary, use an insect net to guard against the adults flying away. You can try to catch them as they fly away or swing the net by the plant to capture the insect. This method will rip leaves off the plant. Place a piece of paper towel or a leaf in the container for transport to give them something to hold on to. Also, leaves with aphids can be collected so that predation can be observed later.

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