Posts Tagged: lady beetles
Photographers never tire of capturing images of ladybugs, aka lady beetles.
First of all, they're beneficial insects. You know when you photograph them that they're about to scoot, crawl or fly off to grab a tasty lunch--an all-you-can-eat aphid buffet.
Second, they're colorful. They brighten a garden, standing out like red Corvettes on a freeway.
Third, they're among the most recognizable of insects. Halloween costume companies relish in creating polka-dotted attire for the 5-and-under set. Nobody will ask "What are you supposed to be?"
Fourth, they're quite common. California alone has some 125 species of Coccinellids.
Worldwide, there are some 5000 described species.
Not too many people know, however, that many species in the family Coccinellidae secrete a nasty fluid. As UC Berkeley retired entomologist Jerry Powell writes in his book, California Insects, "...when disturbed, many species secrete a bitter, amber-colored fluid that is believed to have poisonous effects on vertebrates..."
Indeed, their red and black coloring warns "Leave me alone!"
Ladybug, aka lady beetle, searching for aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
The ladybug's coloring warns "Leave me alone!" (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A ladybug on the prowl. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
If you don't know what it is, don't kill it.
That insect in your garden could very well be a beneficial insect.
If you operate on the "shoot-first-ask-questions later" or "the only good bug is a dead bug," no telling how many insects--and generations--you'll be destroying.
Butterfly expert Art Shapiro, professor of evolution and ecology at UC Davis, tells this story that's worth remembering.
"Last week I was walking across Capitol Park in Sacramento when I observed a smartly dressed young woman in her 20s stomp a praying mantis and grind it into the sidewalk. She exclaimed to her phenotypically similar friend: 'Did you ever see such an ugly, icky bug?'"
And, many years ago, Shapiro encountered a man in College Park, Davis, in the act of stomping a Tiger Swallowtail.
Shapiro asked him why he was doing this.
The man replied: "This is the bug that has the big green caterpillar that eats my tomato plants!"
When Shapiro told him it wasn't, the man told him to check his information, and that "I'm right and you're wrong."
There is indeed a lot of misinformation and misidentification out there.
Tabatha Yang of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis relates the story about an avid gardener who absolutely loved ladybugs (aka lady beetles) because of their voracious appetites for aphids. But when our avid gardener came across "some weird black and orange bugs," she promptly killed them.
Little did she know that she was killing immature ladybugs.
Then there's the story about a UC Master Gardener who encountered a "green-eyed golden bumblebee-like" insect that frightened her because it buzzed so loudly around her flower beds. So, she killed it. Turns out it was a pollinator, a male Valley carpenter bee, also known as a "teddy bear."
And, can you imagine what goes through people's minds when they meet up with a Jerusalem cricket in the mud after a rain? Whoa! Bug-o-mania!
Here's where the Bohart Museum, 1124 Academic Surge on California Drive, UC Davis campus, can help. If you live in California and see an insect and wonder if it's beneficial insect or a pest--or just want to know what it is--take a photo of it and email it to the Bohart. Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum (home of more than seven million specimens) and professor of entomology at UC Davis, identifies insects in between research, teaching, administering the Bohart Museum, and other duties. Her email address: email@example.com.
Maybe, just maybe, this will save a few praying mantids, ladybugs, Valley carpenter bees and Jerusalem crickets./span>
Praying mantis with remnants of a meal. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This is an immature ladybug (aka lady beetle). (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
This male Valley carpenter bee is a pollinator, not a pest. The female Valley carpenter bee is solid black. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Jerusalem cricket is often mistaken for a pest. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybugs, aka ladybird beetles, are out there.
Walk through the garden and they're easy to find.
Last weekend we spotted one tucked in the heart of an artichoke, another climbing a nectarine tree, and still another perched on an artichoke leaf.
They're doing what they're supposed to do--eat aphids and other soft-bodied insects.
Red on green--how beautiful is that?
If you're keen on ladybugs--and you ought to be--you'll want to check out Cornell University's Lost Ladybug Project, once confined to New York state and now a nationwide project. It all began in 2000 when Cornell researchers joined the 4-H Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners to survey ladybug populations throughout the state. Now "citizen scientists" participate in ladybug surveys across the country.
The excitement grew in 2006 when two pre-teens found a nine-spotted ladybug (Coccinella novemnotata) near their home in Virginia. This marked the first documented nine-spotted ladybug found in the eastern United States in 14 years.
The Cornell University site seeks ladybug photos--as of today, the count reached 10,661.
Last Saturday, May 19 the San Diego Botanical Garden got in the act by hosting a "Lost Ladybug Project" for Cornell.
They posted the event on their website only to receive this note: "Ladybug! Ladybug! Fly away home. Your house is on fire. And your children all gone. Because it is Judgment Day..."
Only thing being judged, however, was the number of ladybugs counted...that, no doubt, drew the rapt attention of all.
Those ladybugs are out there...
Ladybug looking for food on an artichoke. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybug munching aphids on the limb of a nectarine tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybug looking for aphids in all the right places. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
"You can never be too rich, too young, too blonde or too thin," a quote often attributed to Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.
Well, you can never have too many ladybugs, aka lady beetles, in your garden.
These colorful beetles devour aphids and other soft-bodied insects. It's a war of the predators and their prey.
Fortunately, when there are scores of aphids sucking the very lifeblood out of your plants, you're likely to see both ladybugs AND soldier beetles. Both like to dine on aphids.
Soon the ladybugs and soldier beetles do what comes naturally. (Unfortunately, so do the aphids.)
More ladybugs, please! More soldier beetles, too!
Ladybugs and soldier beetles--along with aphids--on a plum tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Fast-moving soldier beetle crawls toward a pair of ladybugs on a plum tree. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybug eggs mean more ladybugs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
There's a good reason why lady beetles, aka ladybugs, are prevalent this time of year: aphids.
Ladybugs, from the family Coccinellidae, are actually beetles with voracious appetites for those soft-bodied insects that suck plant juices.
Wherever there are aphids, you'll usually see ladybugs. It may take awhile for the ladybugs to find them, but find them they will.
Two ladybugs converging on a plum tree leaf. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Aphids covering a rosebud. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)