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Posts Tagged ‘lady beetle’

Whether you call it a ladybug or ladybird or lady beetle, everyone enjoys seeing these brightly colored members of the Coccinellidae family. Little kids love them, gardeners like the fact that they consume aphids, and there is something cute and cheery about their appearance.

My good friend and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer spotted this ladybug during a quick trip that we made to Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historical garden not far from where I live. Cindy has already posted images on her blog of some of the many flowers in bloom that we observed yesterday—I got sidetracked by searching for insects and didn’t get as many flower photos.

Later in the year, I will almost certainly see lots of ladybugs, but this was the first one of the spring, so it is special for me.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I know that ladybugs don’t really have babies, but, seriously, how many people will read a posting with words like “larva” and “pupa” in the title? A more accurate title would be something like “Larva and Pupa of the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).”

This past weekend I was wandering through a local garden when I spotted a strange-looking little yellow and black insect. Upon closer investigation, I discovered several more of them on the plant, along with some orange and black objects that I thought might be insects too, but they were not moving. This was a good excuse to take out my macro lens and to follow the old adage about shooting first and asking questions later.

After a bit of research, I realized that I had captured two different phases in the life cycles of a ladybug. Lady-bugs.org and ladybug-life-cycle.com offer additional details on the stages of development of a ladybug, but allow me to summarize for folks like me who don’t follow insects for a living. The ladybug’s life cycle is about four to six weeks long, with four stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult). During the larval stage, the ladybug larvae shed their exoskeletons three times before the pupation stage begins. It is during the pupa stage that the metamorphosis takes place that is almost as magical as it is for butterflies and the insect that I photographed turns into a full grown ladybug.

Thanks to bugguide, I was able to identify my bug as the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis). The article notes that the larvae look like tiny alligators and grow to be larger in size than the eventual ladybug. It describes the pupa as “an elongated dome shape, usually found attached to a leaf, with the spiky remains of the last larval skin usually clinging to one end. The branched spines of this skin are usually visible.”

It was fascinating to discover the details of what I had photographed—metamorphosis never ceases to amaze me. Here are a couple of my favorite shots of the ladybug larvae and several of different pupa. Be sure to click on them to see more details.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week when I was at a local garden I came across several pairs of ladybugs mating and several things really stood out to me.

First, the male ladybug is a lot smaller than the female. An article at ladybuglady.com (a great name for a website) points out that females are “usually” larger than males, but essentially it’s almost impossible for the average person to tell them apart until they are mating. If you really want to know how to tell male ladybugs from females the referenced article has photos from an electron microscope with detailed explanations.

The other thing that was obvious was the difference in color and spots between the two. The male is a medium orange with a few small light black spots and the female is a deeper shade of red with larger, darker spots. Wikipedia notes that there are more than 5,000 species of ladybugs (which technically are beetles and not bugs), with more than 450 native to North America. According to that article, the number, shape, and size of the spots is dependent on the species of ladybug. Does that mean these two ladybugs are different species?

Bugguide has some interesting factoids about names used elsewhere in the world for the ladybug. For example, “Ladybird” was first used in medieval England, perhaps because these beneficial predators of agricultural pests were believed to be a gift from the Virgin Mary—the “Lady.” Other European names have similar associations, such as the German Marienkäfer, “Marybeetle.” (Thanks to Gary for pointing out the correct spelling in German—I inserted the Umlaut to make it correct.)

So I am left wondering, will the little ladybugs that result from this coupling look more like mom or like dad?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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