Lady Beetles (Ladybird Beetles; Ladybugs)

Nearly 500 species in North America north of Mexico
Coccinellidae (ladybird beetles) in the order Coleoptera (beetles)

There are many species in this family of beetles. In general, they are brightly colored, often shiny, typically red, orange, or yellow, and usually spotted, often with black. Several are mostly black. Their bodies are hemispherical, circular or oval and dome-shaped, and flat underneath. The antennae are short. The head can tuck (entirely or in part) beneath the pronotum (the shoulderlike or necklike part between the head and the shell-like forewings, or the elytra). The pronotum can be patterned to look something like a head.

The larvae are long, segmented, soft-bodied, and rather lizard-like, with six legs; they are often camouflaged with patterns in gray, tan, black, and brown, and often have small bristles.

Length: to ½ inch (varies with species).
Habitat and conservation: 
Lady beetles can fly and crawl to wherever they can find food. Since their favorite foods are usually aphids and scale insects, which are usually attached to plants, lady beetles are usually found near vegetation. Some species, including introduced Asian lady beetles, enter homes in large numbers, seeking warmth, when the weather turns cold.
Most lady beetles (especially during their juvenile, growing stages) prey on other insects, especially aphids and scale insects, which suck plant juices and can injure crops. They also eat the larvae of flies and other minute caterpillars, insect eggs, and more. Some lady beetle species eat plants, fungi that grow on plants, or pollen.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Common. Economically important for their agricultural service in eating aphids and other insects injurious to crops. The “lady” in the name arose in Medieval times, apparently when the grateful English thanked “Our Lady” (the Virgin Mary) for the presence of these agricultural helpers. Germans call these insects Marienkäfer, “Mary beetle,” for probably the same reasons. Calling them “ladybugs” is inaccurate, for they are beetles, not “bugs” in the technical sense.
Life cycle: 
Like many insects, a lady beetle hatches from an egg, goes through immature stages as it eats and grows, then becomes a winged, sexually mature adult. Lady beetles have four juvenile stages, each of which can look quite different from the others. Then they enter an inactive, shell-covered pupal stage, while they undergo metamorphosis, and later emerge as adults.
Human connections: 
Lady beetles are a tremendous help to farmers and gardeners, performing natural, nontoxic pest-control. Some of the Asian lady beetle species that were introduced to help control crop pests have become pests themselves, entering houses in foul-smelling masses when the weather turns cold.
Ecosystem connections: 
The fertility of aphids and scale insects is staggering, and without legions of tiny predators like lady beetles, lacewings, and others, they have the potential to cause great harm to plants. Sadly, indiscriminate forms of pest control harm insects that are natural exterminators.
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