The ladybug lifecycle, helping us out at every stage

Ladybug: the lifecycle of this precious garden assistant

A 10th century legend, over a thousand years ago, relates the story of a man condemned to death for having murdered someone. As he claimed his innocence, a ladybug landed on his neck and the executioner stayed his ax.

Several times, the executioner tried to shoo the bug away, to no avail. The King at the time, Robert the IInd, interpreted this as a sign of God and mercifully released the man. A few days later, the true culprit was apprehended. Since then, the ladybug has been called “the Good Lord’s Beetle”, and is often associated with good luck.

The ladybug

Ladybug laying eggsIt is part of the Coleoptera family. These insects are special in that they have thick elytrons (or forewings) that are like a hardened dome protecting their delicate wings.

  • Over 5000 different species populate the planet and dot them with many different colors and shapes.
  • It’s possible to tell some of the species apart thanks to the spots on their back. Ladybirds can have from two to twenty-four points on their back.
  • The most common one in our gardens is the red ladybug with seven dots on its back.
  • Its lifespan reaches three years.

Physical characteristics of the ladybug

  • Ladybug larvae hatchingTwo antennas help this insect smell and taste, they compensate for its eyesight which is very bad.
  • It legs, of course, help it move around, but they also have a sense of smell that is very useful when hunting.
  • If ever predators aren’t deterred by its bright colors, it releases a smelly substance and can even play dead.

Did you know…? The saying goes that if ever a ladybug lands on your shoulder, you should make a wish because it brings you luck. Count the dots on its back: that’s how many months your good fortune will follow you. There’s no risk in trying!

Ladybug lifecycle

Single ladybug larva on leafAfter mating, the female lays between fifty and one hundred orange-colored eggs.

  • Three days later, the eggs turn black. Larva hatch from them.
  • To grow, they feast on aphids. After one last meal, they secure themselves to a leaf and wrap themselves in a silky cocoon to evolve into nymphs. This is when metamorphosis occurs.

A few days later…

  • the ladybug pops out of the nymph.
  • Completely yellow in color, it doesn’t have any dots at all. Its forewings are soft.
  • As time passes, dots start appearing on the lower portion and wings are deployed.
  • Dots then appear higher up, wings are folded back and the ladybug’s color turns to orange.

All this takes little more than an hour… a few days later, it will have become bright red.

Benefits of having ladybugs in the yard

Young yellow ladybug with no spotsIf you’re looking for an alternative to chemical pest treatments, then this is the answer. You should try to attract it to your garden because its main prey is aphids. Aphids are the source of proteins that a ladybug needs to grow.

  • A larva can devour up to 80 aphids in a single day, and an adult over 100.

If ever aphids become rare, it’ll fall back on scale insects, thrips, and whitefly.

Reintroducing ladybugs in your garden

Slightly more mature ladgybugHaven’t seen a ladybug in a long time? It’s possible to purchase larva in horticulture stores. All you need to do is drop them delicately with a soft brush on a spot where there are many aphids (a rose, for instance). Handle them with care, because that sticky goo they excrete when disturbed can sometimes trigger allergies for some persons.

  • Watch out, though: if there are many colonies of ants in your garden, your ladybugs are at risk: ants protect and defend aphids.
  • The reason for this is that ants tend to aphids like cattle: they “milk” them for their honeydew, which is actually what’s left from the sap they ingest as they feed on plants. Honeydew contains lots of sugars, proteins, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

A word of wisdom:

“Thanks are in order, for my roses are whole,

Rid of all aphids, agents of disgrace,

Who bore hole after hole,

Who turn aught into lace.

Michelle Flamme

Smart tips about ladybugs

Set a house up for your insects in your garden to have them stay as guests!

LD