Ladybirds are beetles of the order Coleoptera. They have biting mouth parts and colourful hard wing cases. In Britain there are 46 coccinellid species (from the latin meaning scarlet), with 26 species recognisable as ladybirds.
Ladybirds are regarded as beneficial to the garden as they eat lots of insects that damage plants, such as aphids, scale insects and thrips. Some ladybirds such as the sixteen-spot, twenty-two spot and orange varieties feed on mildew which also damages garden plants. There are just a couple of species – the twenty-four spot and the bryony varieties – that actually feed on plant material.
- One ladybird may eat over 4,000 aphids in its lifetime.
- Ladybirds lay eggs on plants, usually near aphids or similar infestations.
- Baby ladybirds are called larvae – they hatch from eggs after 3-4 days.
- Larvae turn into adult ladybirds after about 3 weeks.
- Ladybird habitats provide refuge all year round.
- Ladybirds secrete reflex blood (foul tasting yellow fluid) to deter predators.
- The harlequin ladybird from Asia out-competes our native species for food, as well as preying on larvae; and is thus considered a serious threat.
What is the life cycle of a ladybird?
Usually laid on plants in batches, eggs are yellow/orange in colour and hatch within 4 – 10 days, depending on temperature.
Varying in colour, these can be grey, yellow, buff or brown depending on the species. Most have a pattern of pale spots on some of the abdominal segments. They eat any unhatched eggs in their batch then disperse to feed.
These vary in colour from off-white through various shades of yellow, orange, grey or brown to black. Many have spots or patterns on the main background colour. The pupal stage lasts 7-10 days.
The emerging adult looks yellow and unpatterned. But as blood is pumped into the elytra and wings to expand them, the colour patterns develop over the first few hours of an adult’s life.