Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Arthropoda
Class – Insecta
Order – Coleoptera
Suborder – Polyphaga
Superfamily - Cucujoidea
Family – Coccinellidae
Common Names – Ladybug, ladybird, ladybird beetle, lady beetle
Their bright color is a warning that they can be toxic and they will also excrete, or ‘bleed’, a yellow alkaline toxin when they are alarmed. Ladybugs do not create nests and will often overwinter in houses, causing a slight and harmless infestation in the spring. Ladybugs, despite the gentile nature their name implies, will resort to cannibalism when food is scarce.
A female can lay one thousand eggs in her lifetime and the eggs are laid among the colonies of prey species and the larvae will begin to feed as soon as they hatch. There is evidence that mothers will lay infertile eggs as a food source for the hatchlings when food is scarce. The egg stage lasts for 1-3 weeks, as does the subsequent larvae stage. Larvae of many species more closely resemble a tick than a beetle. The larvae will then form a cocoon and the pupae will later emerge as an adult.
The most commonly recognized ladybugs have a bright red, dome shaped shell with blackspots. However, there are striped, plain, yellow, and orange varieties as well. There are even pure black ladybugs that prey on mites instead of the normal aphids. Others will prey on eggs, caterpillars, or other insects. There is some evidence of more of an omnivorous diet with some species, but that is less common. A few of the 5000 species are even considered destructive since they feed on valuable crops such as the squash beetle and the Mexican bean beetle. They are prey items for birds, rodents, spiders, and wasps. The largest beetles are still less than a half inch long.
These aphid loving beetles are often used as a natural pest control by both amateur and professional gardeners and farmers. As a result, there are many areas where some species have become invasive and are muscling out native species.