Ladybug Eating an Aphid
aka Ladybirds (if you are in most English speaking areas of the world other than the U.S.),
aka Lady Beetles
aka Ladybird Beetles
Latin Name: Coccinellidea species (Over 5,000 species in the world. Over 450 in North America)
Why are they beneficial?
Adults and larvae feed on soft-bodied pests, mites, and pest eggs.
They LOVE aphids!
A larvae will eat about 400 aphid prior to pupating.
An Adult can consume over 5,000 aphids in it lifetime.
What is their life cycle?
The female will lay her eggs in a cluster on a plant leaf or stem.
In about a week, the eggs hatch into larvae (they look like little alligators).
The larvae go through four stages (instars) as they mature and grow.
In about a month, the larvae pupate (go into a cocoon-like stage).
In another week, the adults emerge.
What do they look like?
This is important. Most people only know what the adult looks like. Here is what to look for in all stages of the life cycle.
Ladybug Laying Eggs
Ladybug Eggs on a Leaf
Ladybug Eggs and Head of a Match (for size)
Newly Hatched Ladybug Larvae
Note that every species is very similar, but may have slightly different patterns and colors to this one.
Note that each species has slightly different colors and spot patterns, but they are all basically the same shape.
Note that colors and spots may be different with different species, but size and shape are about the same.
This is a great series of images of the life cycle of a Ladybug.
What do they need?
Prey: aphids, mites, soft-bodied insects, and insect eggs
Food: Ladybugs also need nectar and pollen from flowers that have shallow clusters or are umbrella shaped (basket of gold, buckwheat, butterfly weed, carpet bugleweed, chamomile, chervil, chives, clover, cornflower, cosmos, coreopsis, cinquefoil, coriander, dandelion, dill, fennel, four-wing saltbush, golden marguerite, marigold, mustard, parsley, queen anne's lace, scented geraniums, spike speedwell, sunflowers, tansy, vetch, wild carrot, yarrow).
Ladybugs need places to overwinter - loose mulch, leaf litter, under rocks, etc.
NOTE: The "Asian Lady Beetle", that one that seems to come in swarms inside your house in the fall, is still a beneficial insect for your garden, but it can give a little bite (not poisonous), and can stain skin and other surfaces with its yellowish, foul smelling defense secretion. Just try to relocate them to your garden.
Check out these other pages on beneficial insects in your garden!