Their scientific names (Coleoptera, meaning "sheath-winged", and Coccinellidae, meaning "little red sphere") can be quite a mouthful, but by whatever name you call them, Ladybugs are well-known and well-loved all over the Earth. Nearly 400 species of Ladybug live in North America, and there are nearly 5,000 species worldwide. Also commonly known as the Lady Beetle or Ladybird Beetle, the name of these insects reflects the global admiration of mankind. None are much larger than a pencil-eraser (some are even smaller) and they come in a wide variety of colors, including red, orange, pink, yellow and black. They can have as many as 20 spots.....or no spots at all. They're also one of the few insects who hibernate during the winter months (called "over-wintering"), emerging in the spring to lay their eggs.
In the 1880s, California Citrus Growers were forced to put the Ladybug's legendary appetite to a crucial test: A destructive scale insect (imported from Australia) was killing large groves of lemon and orange trees. The orchard owners released thousands of Australian Ladybugs with the hopes that they would gain the upper hand. Within 2 years (and $1,500 worth of Ladybugs) the scale insect infestation was conquered and the trees began to bear fruit again. The Ladybugs had singlehandedly saved an entire industry (worth half a billion dollars today). Since then, numerous species of Ladybugs have been "employed" around the world to help control and conquer outbreaks of crop-destroying pests. The Hippodamia Convergens (so-named due to the 2 converging white dashes on the black thorax portion of the beetle's body, just above the wing cases) is undoubtedly the "aphid-eating champ" of all the Ladybug species. For this reason, many orchard owners, plant nurseries, and farmers have used them for pest control since 1910. During certain months of the year, you can even purchase containers of these Ladybugs at your local garden centers (or online) for use in your own backyard. Of course, not all of them will stick close to home, but the ones that do will vigilantly remain on patrol for pests, and they take no prisoners!
Female Ladybugs produce clusters of 20-50 yellow-orange oval-shaped eggs in the early spring -- you can usually find them stuck to the undersides of leaves. The average female will lay anywhere from 300 to 1000 eggs during her lifetime. The eggs hatch primarily in March and April, depending on the temperature. Ladybug Larvae are actually larger than their parents, and they look very much like miniature blue-black alligators! In fact, some well-meaning gardeners will actually exterminate them because they don't recognize them as Ladybug offspring. The Larvae are ravenous and immediately begin gorging on aphids, mealybugs, scale insects, and other soft-bodied pests. One Larvae can consume as many as 400 aphids during the 3-week period before it enters the Pupae stage and turns into an adult.
Ladybugs are a bit clumsy, though efficient enough, fliers. Their transparent sheath-wings (hidden from view under the outer wing cases, until they take to the air) flutter at a rate of 85 beats per second. Their bright colors serve as a warning sign to birds and other potential predators that they DON'T TASTE GOOD. If attacked by a predator, Ladybugs ooze a yellow, foul-smelling liquid (actually their blood) from their leg joints, which is usually all it takes to convince their attacker not to continue snacking on them!
Finally, after consuming aphids all summer-long, the air starts to turn brisk, and the Ladybugs begin to seek shelter for the winter. They cluster together by the thousands (for warmth, it's presumed) under dead leaves, inside hollow logs, and even high up in the eaves of our houses. For still unknown reasons, they tend to prefer light-colored structures with a prominent southern exposure. There they will remain - in hibernation - until the warmer temperatures return, indicating that Spring has come and the aphid population has been replenished. The Ladybugs will then devote themselves to several days of eating and frenzied mating, the females sometimes feeding and breeding at the same time! Our beautiful, brightly-colored beetles will die soon thereafter......but before they do, new clusters of yellow-orange eggs will be laid and the life cycle begins anew, much to the delight of farmers and Ladybug Lovers everywhere. :-)
"Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away home....your house is on fire, and your children will burn. Except
little Nan, who sits in a pan, weaving gold laces as fast as she can!"
Undoubtedly, you're familiar with this well-known children's rhyme, but do you know how it originated? In Medieval England, the farmers would set torches to the old Hop vines after the harvest, to clear the fields for the next planting. The poem was a warning to the aphid-eating Ladybugs, still crawling on the vines in search of aphids. The Ladybugs' children (larvae) could get away from the flames, but the immobile pupae (Nan) remained fastened to the plants (laces) and couldn't escape. Kinda morbid, huh?
"LADYBUG" IN OTHER LANGUAGES:
"Glückskäfer" -- Austria
"Slunécko" - Czechoslovakia
"Mariehøne" -- Denmark
"LadyBird" -- England
"Leppäkerttu" -- Finland
"Coccinelle" -- France
"Marienkafer" -- Germany
"Paskalitsa" -- Greece
"Parat Moshe Rabenu" -- Hebrew
"Lieveheersbeestje" -- Holland
"Katicabogár" -- Hungary
"Coccinella" -- Italy
"Tentou Mushi" -- Japan
"Da'asouqah" -- Jordan
"Mudangbule" -- Korea
"Mara" -- Latvia
"Kumbang" -- Malaysia
"Mariehøne" -- Norway
"Biedronka" -- Poland
"Joaninha" -- Portugal
"Buburuzã" -- Romania
"Bosya Kopovka" -- Russia
"Pikapolonica" -- Slovania
"Mariquita" -- Spain
"Nykelpiga" -- Sweden
"Ugurböcegi" -- Turkey
"Ladybug" -- United States
"Ilsikazana Esincane" -- Zulu
HOW THE LADYBUG GOT ITS NAME:
Legends vary about how the Ladybug came to be named, but the most common (and enduring) is this: In Europe, during the Middle Ages, swarms of insects were destroying the crops. The farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. Soon thereafter the Ladybugs came, devouring the plant-destroying pests and saving the crops! The farmers called these beautiful insects "The Beetles of Our Lady", and - over time - they eventually became popularly known as "Lady Beetles". The red wings were said to represent the Virgin's cloak and the black spots were symbolic of both her joys and her sorrows.
Nearly ALL cultures believe that a Ladybug is lucky.
Killing one is said to bring sadness and misfortune.
In France, if a Ladybug landed on you, whatever ailment
you had would fly away with the Ladybug.
If a Ladybug is held in the hand while making a wish,
the direction that it flies away to shows where
your luck will come from.
If the spots on the wings of a Ladybug are more than seven,
it's a sign of coming famine. If less than seven, it means
you will have a good harvest.
In Belgium, people believed that if a Ladybug crawled across
a young girl's hand, she would be married within a year.
People in Switzerland told their young children
that they were brought to them, as babies, by Ladybugs.
(...and we thought Storks did that)!
In some Asian cultures, it is believed that the Ladybug understands
human language, and has been blessed by God, Himself.
In Brussels, the black spots on the back of a Ladybug indicate to the
person holding it how many children he/she will have.
According to a Norse legend, the Ladybug came to earth
riding on a bolt of lightning.
The Victorians in Britain believed that if a Ladybug alighted on your
hand, you would be receiving new gloves.....if it landed on your head,
a new hat would be in your future, and so on.
In the 1800's, some doctors used Ladybugs to treat measles! They
also believed that if you mashed ladybugs (ewww!) and put them
into a cavity, the insects would stop a toothache!
During the Pioneer days, if a family found a Ladybug in their log cabin
during the winter, it was considered a "Good Omen".
In the Spring, if numerous Ladybugs are seen flying around,
British farmers say it forecasts many bountiful crops.
Many Bretons believe that the arrival of Ladybugs will bring fair weather.
Folklore suggests if you catch a Ladybug in your home, count the number
of spots and that's how many dollars you'll soon find.
In Norway, if a man and a woman spot a Ladybug at the same time,
there will be a romance between them.