Characteristics of Lady Bugs
A number of superstitions are attached to the ladybug. Northern Germans believed they could forecast how well their harvest by counting the spots on the backs of ladybugs. More than seven spots on the wing cover of a ladybug was considered a sign of famine. English farmers believed that ladybugs meant their harvest would do well, whereas the ancient Norse associated ladybugs with love and beauty. Some farmers release ladybugs in their garden in hopes they will eat scale insects and aphids.
Ladybugs are actually beetles that possess two hard shells that are wing cases called elytra. The shells are typically red featuring black spots. Their hind wings are transparent and are used to propel the bugs. The ladybug can fly but is much better on the ground and is considered a ground bug. It can only fly 15 miles per hour, although it can fly a long distance if it has to. The ladybug can fly up to 100 miles to find a sheltered place to spend the winter or to find food.
The ladybug climbs and walks using six legs and uses the legs to groom itself. A claw on the end of each leg allows the bug to grip stems and leaves. The ladybug uses its two antennae for touching and smelling.
Types of ladybugs that you will find in North America include the nine-spotted ladybug; the two-spotted ladybug; the spotless ladybug; the convergent ladybug and the ashy gray ladybug, which is not red.
Ladybugs eat aphids and other insects, including scale insects, which farmers appreciate. Aphids wreak havoc on wheat and roses, and scale insects attack orchard trees. The ladybug prevents these insects from doing damage. An adult convergent lady beetle can eat up to 75 aphids a day and a small male can eat 40. Ladybugs have strong jaw bones which helps them eat these insects.
Ladybugs do not taste good, which protects them from being killed by birds and other predators. The female bugs produce a nasty odor that comes from the fluid in their leg joints, which also protects them from predators that find the smell offensive. If you disturb a ladybug, it may fool you by rolling over and pretending to be dead. Ladybug predators don’t eat dead insects, so this is a ploy to keep them safe.
When it gets cold outside, the ladybugs look for shelter and turn up in your house, where they rest quietly. This resting time is called diapause. You may find lots of ladybugs huddled together during this period of time. In the spring, the ladybugs start looking for food and laying eggs.