Monday, August 27, 2018

LadyBugs!

Coccinellidae pupating (lady bug, lady beetle, lady bird)

LadyBugs!


We all love the little ladybugs in our gardens.  They have voracious appetites for aphids and scale.  A lady bird or two decided our garden was a great place to lay some eggs.  I spotted my first lady bug larvae some time last week and then started seeing all the pupating lady bugs everywhere on the sweet potatoes.

This is our fifth year of gardening, and without any pesticide.  Our first year of planting sweet potatoes and along came the lady bugs.  Not sure what the draw was, specifically, but we will plant more sweet potatoes every year from here on out.

How Lady Bugs Start Out
Ladybug larvae


An adult ladybug will find a place where there is a good food source, and lay a cluster of eggs.  When the eggs hatch, the larvae climb out of their respective eggs and don't look much like the super cute lady bugs we all know and love.  They are born hungry, eating up to 50 soft bodies daily.

At any stage, ladybugs love to eat any soft bodied insect, including aphids, scale, white flies, etc.  Mr. Man witnessed ladybugs in our garden eat a path through a group of aphids as it was walking on a leaf.  A ladybug can eat up to 5,000 soft bodied insects in its lifetime.  It may seem like a lot, but aphids multiply at an astonishing rate.


Ladybug chrysalis stages

The Chrysalis Phase


After several weeks of constant noshing, the lady bug larvae find a spot to attach and pupate.  In the sweet potatoes, there are so many on the leaf undersides it has been quite surprising.  We really had no idea how many ladybugs we had in the garden until seeing chrysalis all over the leaves.

The chrysalis phase can last around 15 days and then the adult lady bug emerges, to finish its remaining one to two year life span.


The Beetle Phase
Recently emerged from pupa


Once the pupation has completed, the ladybugs exit from the shell and start walking around.  The coloring may be light and the spots may not be fully visible until after they mature some.  If there is a good food source, these guys and gals will stick around, picking off approximately 20 soft bodies daily.

This particular lady bug we ended up with is called a Convergent Lady Bug.  The identification is easy by the two slash marks of white on top center of and white edging around the shoulder plate.  The spot patterns aren't consistent on each individual ladybug for this type of lady bug.


Winter Habits Of LadyBugs
Wintering ladybug clusters


Strange but true, lady bugs winter in clusters.  My son and I first witnessed this spectacle when hiking in the Chiracahua mountains many years ago.  It was intriguing and pretty amazing.  I wonder if we will see such a thing around our house here this winter.