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The Garden Writers Association


Last Update 08/29/12
Florida Insects

 Ladybugs (Lady Beetles, Ladybirds)

A Beneficial Garden Insect

Asian Ladybug (Harmonia axyridis)Not all ladybugs are the familiar red with black spots; some are yellow, or orange with black spots, while others are black with red spots.

Ladybugs, also called ladybirds or lady beetles, areCoccinella septempunctata the most well known of all beneficial insects. Both adult ladybug beetles and larvae feed on soft-bodied insects such as aphids, scale insects, and other insects that are harmful to plants. Some species even feed on powdery mildew fungal spores. Because they feed on these pests, ladybugs are often considered the gardener's best friend.

Seven Spotted LadybugWhile most everyone is familiar with the "Seven Spotted Ladybug", Coccinella septempunctata, of the beetle family Coccinellidae, there are more than 4000 species of ladybugs worldwide and 96 of them have been spotted living in Florida. Some are natives while others immigrated to or were purposely introduced to our state. 

Ladybug eggs produce larvae that undergo four instarsLadybug larvae chowing down on aphids. before pupating, metamorphosing, and giving rise to adults. Here you can see a couple of hungry ladybug larvae in third and fourth instar chowing down on some hapless aphids that are feeding on a Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) plant. While they are often overlooked by the typical gardener, ladybug larvae are as voracious as adult ladybug beetles. Typically, in Florida, ladybugs have several generations each year, and reproduction is slowed or halted by cooler winter weather, when adults may hibernate. The active ladybug larvae are black with orange or white markings. Many people think ladybug larvae look like miniature alligators. Like an alligator, ladybug larva have huge appetites -- a larva will eat 200-400 aphids before it is fully fed and ready to pupate.

Ladybug larva

Ladybug larva in pupa.

Ladybug pupa, the last stage of the ladybug’s metamorphosis cycle before becoming a beetle.

Ladybug larva

Ladybug larva in pupa.

Ladybug pupa, the last stage of the ladybug’s metamorphosis cycle before becoming a beetle.

The ladybugs' bright colors are a warning to birds that they do not taste good. Similar to insects like stinkbugs, ladybugs can eject a foul smelling fluid from their leg joints if harassed. Few predators will mess with an adult ladybug beetle again after getting a whiff of this scent. The same holds true of the larva, few animals or other insects will feed upon ladybug larvae because of their horrible taste.

Ladybugs are voracious feeders and may be numerous where prey such as aphids, mealybugs, and whiteflies are plentiful and insecticides are not being used in the garden. Adult ladybugs can eat many times their body weight in prey per day so that they can lay eggs. Once the adults and larvae have eliminated prey on one particular plant, they will move on in search of additional food. Ladybugs are mobile and often will not remain dedicated to your yard or garden once they have brought the pest insect population under control.

Source:  American Horticultural Society Pests and Diseases: The Complete Guide to Preventing, Identifying, and Treating Plant Problems

 
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