Posts Tagged: lady beetles
A lady beetle, aka ladybug, sharing stories with Gulf Fritillary caterpillars?
Well, not likely.
The lady beetle (family Coccinellidae) preys mainly on aphids--it can eat about 50 aphids a day or some 5000 aphids in its lifetime. But it will devour other soft-bodied insects, including mites, scales, mealybugs, leafhoppers, and butterfly eggs and larvae (caterpillars). Butterfly caterpillars move quite slowly; they are not Indy 500 speedsters.
We spotted a lady beetle early this morning on one of our passionflower (Passiflora) seed pods, surrounded by hungry Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) caterpillars. It was somewhat like a two-peas-in-a-pod scene, but without the peas. Here were two insect species ON a pod, and both sharing the same warning color: red.
The Gulf Fritillary caterpillars are hungry. Very hungry. They've stripped the passionflower vine of all its leaves and are now eating the stems and seed pods. Actually, we planted the passionflower vine for them. But are they THAT hungry? They are. They're famished. And there are literally hundreds of them.
Sometimes we think that all of the Gulf Frit butterflies west of Mississippi are gravitating toward the plant to lay their eggs. The vine cannot support that many hungry caterpillars, despite predation by scrub jays and European paper wasps.
The lady beetle, we assume is not only eating the tiny yellow eggs of the Gulf Frit, but the tiniest of the tiny larvae. It's an exquisite buffet of tasty treats with high nutritional value.
And easy pickings.
Lady beetle, aka ladybug, with its new "friends"--Gulf Fritillary caterpillars. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary caterpillars move around the lady beetle, aka ladybug. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A touching moment. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Gulf Fritillary caterpillars will grow up to look like this. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Consider the lady beetle, aka ladybug.
It's not a bug, but a beetle. It belong to the family Coccinellidae, and scientists have described about 5000 species worldwide, and about 450 in North America.
Some quick facts...
Ladybugs are not always red with black spots. The colors can be red, yellow, orange, gray, black, brown and pink. And, not all ladybugs have spots. Some have stripes and some have neither spots nor stripes.
Coccinellid are omnivores, dining on soft-bodied insects such as aphids, as well as plants. Aphids? A single ladybug can eat some 5000 aphids during its short life span of three to six weeks.
Ladybugs are considered good luck. If a ladybug lands on you, Lady Luck is supposed to smile on you.
This ladybug (below) landed on me on the grounds of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis.
I'm still waiting for Lady Luck.
When a ladybug lands on you, it's considered good luck. A gentle push and this one took flight. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Where's the best spot for the new residents of my garden?
I acquired two ladybugs last Saturday during the 99th annual UC Davis Picnic Day. Background: as part of the campuswide celebration, the Department of Entomology annually hosts an all-out bugfest at the Bohart Museum of Entomology and at Briggs Hall. And keeping with the Briggs Hall tradition, the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program gifted picnickers with the treasured ladybugs.
Now ladybugs aren't really "bugs"; they're beetles. Neither are they all "ladies"; some have manly qualities. (Gender issues may confuse us, but not the lady and gentlemen beetles.)
A ladybug is a good beneficial insect. It can devour an estimated 5000 aphids in its lifetime (three to six weeks).
So, every year for the past several years, I've adopted two ladybugs, chauffered them home, and tucked them in our garden. "Please eat the aphids," I tell them.
And they do.
They're good at following instructions.
Last year they took up residence in a bed of red roses. This year, they're coming up in the world--a high rise. A tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii) is "home sweet home."
Life doesn't get any better than this if you're a ladybug (and any worse if you're an aphid).
Two ladybugs in a tower of jewels, Echium wildpretii. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Ladybugs exploring the menu. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Hmm, looks like an aphid over there to me. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
What's red and black with yellow all over?
Ladybugs, aka lady beetles or ladybird beetles, laying their yellow eggs.
It's a sure sign of spring when aphids emerge, and ladybugs feast on them. One ladybug can reportedly eat 5000 aphids in its lifetime.
That's a lot of aphids!
Meanwhile, the aphids in the fava beans at the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, University of California, Davis, are doing their part.
The garden, located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, is teeming with aphids on the fava beans.
And teaming with ladybugs in the process of adding more ladybugs to the garden.
If you're looking to get involved with ladybugs as a citizen scientist, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., hosts "The Lost Ladybug Project" to spotlight the ladybugs of North America. On the website, you can learn to identify them, understand their biology, and upload photos.
And it wouldn't hurt to include a photo of a ladybug dining on a scumptious aphid.
Ladybugs mating; the female continues to munch aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Close-up shot of ladybug eggs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Panoramic view of ladybugs, aphids, and ladybug eggs. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Some folks like to watch the grass grow, flowers bloom, or clouds drift.
Others just like to sit back and look for insects.
We spotted this seven-spotted lady beetle (aka ladybug) last Monday morning in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre pollinator garden on Bee Biology Road at the University of California, Davis.
It's a predator, a beneficial insect, and an icon. As one of the most recognizable of all insects, it inspires clothing, art and jewelry themes; home décor; and video games, not to mention all things entomological and the citizen-scientist Lost Ladybug Project. It even prompted five states--Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee--to declare it their official state insect. Never mind if these states are, in the political sense of the word, red or blue, denoting Republicans or Democrats. When it comes to state insects, they're all red!
Lady beetles are especially known for their voracious appetite for aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, mites and other soft-bodied insects. A gardener's friend. A biocontrol dream. An aphid's nightmare.
It's easy to see why the seven-spotted lady beetle, Coccinella septempunctata, is so named. Seven large black spots dot its red wing covers or elytra.
Indeed, if you know Latin, you know that its scientific name, septempunctata, means seven (septem) and spot (punctus).
We watched our seven-spotted friend prowl for aphids on a color-coordinated California fuchsia (Zauschneria californica mexicana).
It was "walking the line," Johnny Cash-style, keeping a close watch on...tasty aphids.
Seven-spotted lady beetle on a California fuchsia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Lady beetle searching for some tasty aphids. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Lady beetle pauses on mid-stem. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)