Posts Tagged: ladybug
Our Artemisia, a silvery-leafed shrub bordering our bee friendly garden, looks quite orange and black these days.
It's not for lack of water or some exotic disease. It's the ladybug (aka lady beetle) population.
If you look closely, you'll see eggs, larvae and pupae and the adults. And if you look even more closely, you'll see aphids.
The predator and the prey.
Ladybug and a Pupa
It's not often you see a ladybug and a honey bee sharing the same plant.
The ladybug, a predator in disguise, devours aphids like a kid does M&Ms. The honey bee, all buzziness, works furiously to collect nectar or pollen for her hive.
Sometimes a lavender patch can bring them together.
Such was the case yesterday in our garden. A ladybug staked claim to a lavender spike, while a dozen honey bees glided in for a sweet sip of nectar.
It probably bugs her but it doesn't kill her.
An entomologist at the University of Montreal is investigating why parasitic wasps (Dinocampus coccinellae) that lay their eggs on ladybugs (Coccinella maculata) do not kill them.
Often a parasitic insect, such as a tachinid fly, kills its host.
"What is fascinating is that the ladybug is partially paralyzed by the parasite, yet it's eventually released unscathed," says biocontrol specialist and professor Jacques Brodeur. "Once liberated, the ladybug can continue to eat and reproduce as if nothing happened."
It works like this: a larva cocoons between the ladybug's legs. Once the parasite matures, it leaves the host. Brodeur hopes to understand the cycle duration, success rate and the host-parasite relationship.
Talk about hostage-taking.
"Can the ladybug refuse to be used?" he wonders. "We don't know. Our plan is to reproduce a variety of situations in the lab and see which is most favorable to reproduction."
Luck be a lady?
Frankly, we're happy that the aphid-eating ladybug, one of our favorite beneficial insects, doesn't succumb to the wasp.
We need more of them around.
Searching for More Aphids
Ladybugs eat lots of aphids. Did we say lots of aphids? Lots of aphids. They have no portion control.
If you watch closely, you'll see them gobble aphids like theater-goers devour buttered popcorn. Ladybugs eat so many aphids you wonder if they'll ever be able to lift off the plant.
Last Saturday we observed the usual: a ladybug chomping down aphids. But wait! What was that riding on her back? Coud it be? Was it?
It was. An aphid was riding the ladybug like a cowboy on a bucking rodeo bull. Didn't the aphid know that one little slip, and no more happy trails?
"Well," one wag said, "that's the safest place for an aphid--on the back of a ladybug."
Aphid on a ladybug
Here’s another good reason to be kind to ladybugs.
But we are, aren’t we?
Seeing spots is good.
The research is the work of Belén Cotes and Mercedes Campos (CSIC, Spain); and Francisca Ruano, Pedro A. García and Felipe Pascual (University of Granada). It will be published in 2009 in the journal, Ecological Indicators.
(For general information about ladybugs, see Legends, Lores, Facts and More.)