Ladybugs (Coccinellidae) are a family of small beetles occuring in colors yellow, red, or orange with small spots on their wing covers. They have black legs, heads and antennae. In Europe, they are called lady beetles or ladybird beetles. Ladybugs are found worldwide and there are over 5000 species of them with 450 native to North America.
Ladybugs have oval bodies with six short legs. Some species have spots or stripes on their wing covers while others have no markings at all. Many species of ladybugs are mostly or entirely black, brown or grey with no markings, making it hard for regular people to identify as ladybugs. With all this variation in appearance, the myth that you can tell the age of a ladybug by the spots on its back is obviously not true.
People are fascinated with the ladybugs because of their colorful appearance; however, farmers love them for their appetite. Most ladybugs voraciously consume plant-eating insects like the aphids, helping to protect crops thus making them the farmer’s best friend. Although ladybugs are known for consuming a large number of aphids and scale insects, there are species of ladybugs that attack a wider range of prey, like spider mites, beetle larvae and caterpillars.
During their lifetime ladybugs can consume about 5,000 aphids and when food is scarce they are known to do whatever it takes to survive, including cannibalism. A hungry ladybug will eat any soft-bodied ladybug it encounters. Newly emerged adults or recently moulted larvae are soft enough for a ladybug to chew.
Ladybugs usually begin to appear indoors in the autumn when they leave their summer homes to find feeding sites and search for places to spend the winter. Recent studies suggest that ladybugs can cause allergic reactions such as asthma and eye irritation.
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