20 Fantastic facts about ladybirds

Colourful, spotted and always hungry, ladybirds are a welcome sight.

 

1. The most familiar ladybirds are red with black spots, but ladybirds can also be orange and yellow, and there are black, pink, blue, and grey ladybirds too.

 

2. After a ladybird has had its fill of aphids, it goes through a cleansing ritual, making good use of its six legs and antenna to remove dirt.

 

3. During the winter, ladybirds huddle together to hibernate in groups that can number in their thousands. Experts say they may be attracted to particular environmental stimuli or they may innately desire to join other members of their species. The insects tend to head for crevices in trees or hibernate under leaves.

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4. Despite having eventful lives, the entire life cycle of a typical ladybird can be complete within a single year.

 

5. Ladybirds are seen to represent goof luck in many countries. They are also the state insect for Ohio, Tennessee, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Delaware in the USA.

 

6. There are more than 4,500 species of ladybird across the world with around 500 in the United States and 46 in the United Kingdom.

 

7. Ladybirds undergo complete metamorphosis

 

8. Ladybirds are beetles and as such have strong jaws and a nippy bite. The harlequin ladybird tends to bit more aggressively. These are red or orange with multiple spots and a white spot on the head.

 

9. During flight, the wings of a ladybird will beat a staggering 85 times per second. It can fly at speeds of 24 kilometres (15 miles) per hour.

 

10. The head of a ladybird contains its mouth, antennae and eyes but they don’t have amazing eyesight. They only see the difference between dark and light and they are unable to perceive colour. They use their antenna to help them taste, smell and feel their way around.

 

11. The colourful sections of a ladybird’s body are often mistaken for its main wings but, like most beetles, it has two sets. The most visible are actually the insect’s forewings, called elytra. These are hard symmetrical shell-like structures, protecting its delicate, diaphanous inner wings. When still, the ladybird carefully tucks its wings away, with the elytra on top.

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12. We have referred to them as ladybirds, which is their common name in the UK, but in the U.S they are commonly referred to as ladybugs, and they’re called lady beetles in Europe. They are also referred to as lady fly, lady cow, lady clock, among many more. Scientifically ladybirds belong to the Coccinellidae family of beetles.

 

13. As one of the most promiscuous insects, ladybirds have attracted a pressing issue: sexually transmitted mites that sterilise affected females.

 

14. Female ladybirds are able to eat as many as 75 aphids each day while the males will get through around 40 of them. Since aphids damage crops and plants by sucking sap, ladybirds are seen as beneficial insects.

 

15. When a ladybird feels threatened by a predator, it oozes a sticky substance out of its leg joints. The yellow goo is actually small droplets of the insects blood, or haemolymph, and the action is referred to as reflex bleeding. Since it contains toxic chemicals and has a pungent smell, this acts as an effective warning. It also makes the ladybird appear as if its dead although it does not cause the insect long-term harm.

 

16. Ladybirds have been shown to have cannilbalistic tendencies. The harlequin ladybirds, for instance, has been spotted eating othe ladybirds such as the 2-spot and the 10-spot. A study by Dr Peter Brown of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge found DNA from other ladybirds in the guts of harlequins in 2014. Larvae will also eat the freshly laid eggs of ladybirds. By devouring their siblings, the ladybird larvae develop faster.

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17. When a ladybird emerges from its pupal case, it will have no spots and is plain yellow. The spots appear within a day or two.

 

18. Ladybird larvae are blue with black or orange stripes. They have long, alligator-like bodies and begin to change into pupa after just a couple of weeks of growing.

 

19. As a ladybird gets older, its spots will begin to fade. But the number of spots developed by a ladybird in adulthood remains constant throughout its life.

 

20. Ladybirds with a penchant for aphids lay their yellow or orange eggs close to them in batches of up to 40. To be certain of a good supply of food, the ladybird will seek honeydew (secreted by aphids as they feed on plant sap) as well as the chemicals a plant riddled with aphids will release.

 

Read next:

Why do ladybirds have spots?

A ladybird’s colour warns off predators

 

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