Lady Beetles EL 53
by G.R. Nielsen, Former Extension Entomologist, Plant and Soil Science Department
The lady beetles,* often called lady bugs or lady bird beetles, live in a variety of habitats.
Description: The adults are minute to medium-size beetles, from 0.8 to 10mm, or 1/32 to 3/8 inch, long. The typical body shape is oval with the dorsal surface convex and the ventral portion almost completely flat. The wing cover, especially, of most species is covered with characteristic color patterns. These spot of band patterns, however, vary greatly within species. Many are the familiar small, reddish-orange, hemispherical beetles, with black spots. Another group is black with orange/red or yellow spots, or all black. The predacious larvae are usually mottled with bright colors, elongate, somewhat flattened, and covered with tubercles or spines.
Life History: In the fall, the lady beetles aggregate in protected spots to hibernate. Some find their way into homes. The beetles remain inactive during the cold winter months living on stored fat. In the home, however, they may warm sufficiently to become active. They are attracted to sunny windows in an attempt to get outside. Beetle activity increases during warm, sunny, winter periods or with warmer spring temperatures. Lady beetles are occasionally found feeding on sweet fluids, such as plant secretions, cut fruit, or sugar syrups. They do not damage foodstuffs nor plants in their search for moisture, but may leave a yellow stain on hands or fabrics when crushed or handled.
The females usually lay their oval, spindle-shaped eggs in clusters on the undersides of leaves or in the crevices of bark. Normally there are four larval instars (stages). The mature larva may remain relatively inactive a day or so prior to pupating. It attaches itself head down onto a surface to shed its skin. The pupae react to being touched, etc. The newly emerged adult is soft and light-colored and lacks the lady beetle's characteristic spots or bands. In a matter of hours this changes as it darkens with age. At first, over-wintering adults can be easily separated from spring generations.
Habits/Hosts: Both the adult beetle and larvae feed upon aphid, scale insects, and mealybugs that are serious pests of fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers. Several species of lady beetles are collected and sold to growers for control of insect pests. Lady beetles release may be of some help in controlling insects in an area. However, because they disperse from the garden release site, they do little good in the area. Because of their important role in insect pest control, lady beetles should not be wantonly destroyed. Lady beetles frequently become an overwinter nuisance in buildings.
Control: No controls are recommended. Ladybugs are beneficial insects important in the biological control of several serious insect pests. If occasionally they become a serious household nuisance, they may be eliminated by spraying with a household pressurized spray or collecting with a vacuum cleaner. Lady beetles will disperse in search of prey and egg-laying sites outside when warmer sunny temperature return. They so not remain indoors through the summer.
Three dozen or more lady beetles have been reported collected in Vermont to date, as follows (arranged by tribes):
Brachyacantha quadripunctata Melsheimer
Brachyacantha stellata (Casey)
Brachyacantha ursina (F.)
Brachyacantha felina 10-pustulata (Melsheimer)
Hyperaspis binotata (Say)
Hyperaspis proba (Say)
Hyperaspis bigeminata (Randall)
Hyperaspis undulata (Say)
Coccinella novemnotata Herbst: Nine spotted lady beetle
Coccinella undecimpunctata L.: Eleven spotted lady beetle
Coccinella transversoguttata richardsoni Brown: Transverse lady beetle
Coccinella trifasciata perplexa Mulsant: Three banded lady beetle
Coccinella hieroglyphica kirbyi Crotch
Cycloneda munda (Say): Red lady beetle
Adalia frigida (Schneider)
Adalia frigida var. humeralis (Say)
Adalia frigida var. hyperborea (Paykull)
Adalia bipunctata (L.) Two spotted lady beetle
Mulsantina picta (Randall): Painted lady beetle
Anisocalvia quatuordecimguttata (L.)
Anatis quindecimpunctata (Olivier): Fifteen spotted lady beetle
Anatis ocellata mali (Say)
Neomysia oblongoguttata pullata (Say)
Edited in January 1997, based on material developed
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