Posts Tagged: lady beetles
Consider the lady beetle, aka ladybug.
It's not a bug, but a beetle. It belong to the family Coccinellidae, and scientists have described about 5000 species worldwide, and about 450 in North America.
Some quick facts...
Ladybugs are not always red with black spots. The colors can be red, yellow, orange, gray, black, brown and pink. And, not all ladybugs have spots. Some have stripes and some have neither spots nor stripes.
Coccinellid are omnivores, dining on soft-bodied insects such as aphids, as well as plants. Aphids? A single ladybug can eat some 5000 aphids during its short life span of three to six weeks.
Ladybugs are considered good luck. If a ladybug lands on you, Lady Luck is supposed to smile on you.
This ladybug (below) landed on me on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
I'm still waiting for Lady Luck.
When a ladybug lands on you, it's considered good luck. A gentle push and this one took flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Where's the best spot for the new residents of my garden?
I acquired two ladybugs last Saturday during the 99th annual UC Davis Picnic Day. Background: as part of the campuswide celebration, the Department of Entomology annually hosts an all-out bugfest at the Bohart Museum of Entomology and at Briggs Hall. And keeping with the Briggs Hall tradition, the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program gifted picnickers with the treasured ladybugs.
Now ladybugs aren't really "bugs"; they're beetles. Neither are they all "ladies"; some have manly qualities. (Gender issues may confuse us, but not the lady and gentlemen beetles.)
A ladybug is a good beneficial insect. It can devour an estimated 5000 aphids in its lifetime (three to six weeks).
So, every year for the past several years, I've adopted two ladybugs, chauffered them home, and tucked them in our garden. "Please eat the aphids," I tell them.
And they do.
They're good at following instructions.
Last year they took up residence in a bed of red roses. This year, they're coming up in the world--a high rise. A tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii) is "home sweet home."
Life doesn't get any better than this if you're a ladybug (and any worse if you're an aphid).
Two ladybugs in a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybugs exploring the menu. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hmm, looks like an aphid over there to me. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What's red and black with yellow all over?
Ladybugs, aka lady beetles or ladybird beetles, laying their yellow eggs.
It's a sure sign of spring when aphids emerge, and ladybugs feast on them. One ladybug can reportedly eat 5000 aphids in its lifetime.
That's a lot of aphids!
Meanwhile, the aphids in the fava beans at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, are doing their part.
The garden, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is teeming with aphids on the fava beans.
And teaming with ladybugs in the process of adding more ladybugs to the garden.
If you're looking to get involved with ladybugs as a citizen scientist, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., hosts "The Lost Ladybug Project" to spotlight the ladybugs of North America. On the website, you can learn to identify them, understand their biology, and upload photos.
And it wouldn't hurt to include a photo of a ladybug dining on a scumptious aphid.
Ladybugs mating; the female continues to munch aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up shot of ladybug eggs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Panoramic view of ladybugs, aphids, and ladybug eggs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Some folks like to watch the grass grow, flowers bloom, or clouds drift.
Others just like to sit back and look for insects.
We spotted this seven-spotted lady beetle (aka ladybug) last Monday morning in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre pollinator garden on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis.
It's a predator, a beneficial insect, and an icon. As one of the most recognizable of all insects, it inspires clothing, art and jewelry themes; home décor; and video games, not to mention all things entomological and the citizen-scientist Lost Ladybug Project. It even prompted five states--Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee--to declare it their official state insect. Never mind if these states are, in the political sense of the word, red or blue, denoting Republicans or Democrats. When it comes to state insects, they're all red!
Lady beetles are especially known for their voracious appetite for aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, mites and other soft-bodied insects. A gardener's friend. A biocontrol dream. An aphid's nightmare.
It's easy to see why the seven-spotted lady beetle, Coccinella septempunctata, is so named. Seven large black spots dot its red wing covers or elytra.
Indeed, if you know Latin, you know that its scientific name, septempunctata, means seven (septem) and spot (punctus).
We watched our seven-spotted friend prowl for aphids on a color-coordinated California fuchsia (Zauschneria californica mexicana).
It was "walking the line," Johnny Cash-style, keeping a close watch on...tasty aphids.
Seven-spotted lady beetle on a California fuchsia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Lady beetle searching for some tasty aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Lady beetle pauses on mid-stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
I don't know how long they'd been in the container, but they were anxious to leave. If you're a ladybug, a house is not a home without aphids.
Members of the California State Grange distributed these tiny containers of ladybugs at the California Agriculture Day on Wednesday on the State Capitol grounds. Grateful little kids excitedly exclaimed "Ladybugs! Ladybugs!" Their parents murmured "Yes! Yes! Great for the garden."
And that's exactly what we did with ours.
We had a red rose bush just waiting for them.
We removed the lid, tipped the container, and the two ladybugs raced out, right to an all-you-can-eat buffet of juicy aphids.
If you're yearning for your very own ladybugs, be sure to attend the 98th annual UC Davis Picnic Day on Saturday, April 21. The statewide UC Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) traditionally gives away ladybugs at the entrance to Briggs Hall.
The UC Davis Department of Entomology, housed in Briggs Hall, will be hosting cockroach races, termite trails, maggot art and honey tasting and scores of other activities. This year, due to popular demand, Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen will be doubling the amount of honey. (Check out last year's entomological photos at Briggs Hall and at the Bohart Museum of Entomology.)
Meanwhile, the good folks planning the campuswide Picnic Day invite all to attend. They wrote on their website: "This family friendly event is free for all to come and experience the richness of diversity and achievement at UC Davis and the surrounding community in the areas of research, teaching, service and campus life."
And experience the wonderful world of ladybugs!
Ladybug devouring an aphid on a rose bush. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)