Nature at Home
Ladybugs and Lady Beetles ladybugs and lady beetles During the 1960s to 1990s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture attempted to establish the Asian lady beetle to control agricultural pests, especially of pecans and apples. Large numbers of the beetles were released in several states including Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, California, Washington, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Maryland.

Adult Asian lady beetles are oval, convex, and about 1/4-inch long. Their color can vary widely from tan to orange to red. They often have several black spots on the wing covers, although on some beetles the spots may be indistinct or entirely absent. Multi-spotted individuals tend to be females while those with few or no spots tend to be males. Most beetles have a small, dark "M" or "W"-shaped marking on the whitish area behind the head.

Eggs are yellow, oval, and typically laid in clusters on the undersides of leaves. The immatures (larvae) are often orange and black and shaped somewhat like tiny alligators. Larvae complete their development on plants where their primary food (aphids) is abundant. The non-mobile cocoon (pupal) stage remains attached to vegetation by its molted skin, but occasionally may be found clinging to exterior walls of buildings. The average time from egg to adult is about one month and there are multiple generations per year. Individual beetles can live up to three years. 

In the U.S., the beetles inhabit ornamental and agricultural crops, including roses, corn, soybeans, alfalfa and tobacco. During spring and summer, the larvae and adults feed mainly on aphids, consuming hundreds per day. 

Ladybugs prefer to eat aphids and will devour up to 50 a day, but they will also attack scale, mealy bugs, boil worms, leafhoppers, and corn ear worms. They dine only on insects and do not harm vegetation in any way.

Ladybugs should always be released after sundown since they fly only in the daytime. During the night, they will search the area for food and stay as long as there is food for them to eat. The more they eat, the more eggs they lay and the more insect eating larvae you will have. It is best if the area has been recently watered. Ladybugs tend to crawl up and toward light. So, release them in small groups at the base of plants and shrubs that have aphids or other insects, and in the lower part of trees.

Ladybugs mate in the spring and lay yellow eggs in clusters of 10 to 50 on the underside of leaves. About five days later the larvae emerge and will eat about 400 aphids during their 2.5 week cycle. The larvae look like tiny black caterpillars with orange spots but do not eat vegetation

The larvae then pupate and emerge from their cocoon as adults after about a week. They begin feeding on aphids, other insects and pollen to build up their body fat.

When purchasing ladybugs or ladybirds be warned: the only commercially produced (reared at a commercial insectary) “red” ladybirds are the two-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata) and the spotted ladybird (Coleomegilla maculata). All other ladybugs and ladybirds including the lady beetles are trapped in the wild and can carry parasites and diseases that will infect ladybugs native to your area.



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