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365 Urban Species. #137: Ladybug

Urban species #137: Ladybug Harmonia axyridis

Here we have the undisputed winner for "cutest insect," at least as measured in numbers of products bearing its image, that are specifically designed for little girls. The domed shell, bright contrasting colors (signaling to birds and other predators that it is unpalatable), and generally inoffensive nature, put the ladybug in an entirely different category of insect, as far as public opinion is concerned. There will be no rain boots shaped like cockroaches, no umbrellas resembling blowflies, and no Volkswagen house centipede. Okay, so the house centipede isn't an insect, and as the entomologists reading this, veins throbbing on their temples, will tell you, the ladybug isn't a bug, but a beetle. "Ladybird beetle," is what we should be calling it, some will insist. Insist on.

The majority of ladybugs in the city are the introduced Asian species sometimes called "multicolored Asian ladybird beetle." This cumbersome common name alludes to the variety of shades of yellow, orange, and red that it can be, not to mention the variable number of spots, from none to nineteen. This species was introduced in order to control crop pests such as aphids and scale insects. Small-scale gardeners can even buy bags of them for their own crops and yards. This species is also the ladybug found gathering in sometimes large numbers indoors.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 18th, 2006 03:59 am (UTC)

these that i photographed the other day (in all my immaturity) seem to have different heads. i wonder, is it just the black to white ratio that's off, or are there different sorts of red ladybugs?
May. 18th, 2006 04:18 am (UTC)
I think those are Convergent Ladybeetles, Hippodamia convergens based on the angled white lines on the prothorax. (I'd be more sure if I could count the spots)
May. 18th, 2006 04:25 am (UTC)

the top one seems to have twelve.
May. 18th, 2006 04:27 am (UTC)
Yup! Congratulations, you caught Convergents doing in ladybug-style.
May. 18th, 2006 04:29 am (UTC)
hahaha, i'll cross it off the list. on to zebras!
May. 18th, 2006 04:25 am (UTC)
Which species is the "fake ladybug" that bites? :(

And while I'm here, may I use the bird photos you post to make icons for public consumption?
May. 18th, 2006 04:53 am (UTC)
I've been nipped a number of times by Harmonia, and the orange morphs seem to be particularly feisty.

Most of the time, what feels like biting is just the large spines on their legs digging into your skin. But they are predatory beetles and do have quite strong jaws for capturing and killing prey.
May. 18th, 2006 09:51 am (UTC)
You can use my bird photos (credit please), but you'll need to ask cottonmanifesto about her photos (which are the ones I usually use).

My first wife and I bought a bag of ladybugs and (whilst sticking our hands in for the thrill) got mildly bitten.
May. 18th, 2006 12:20 pm (UTC)
Feel free to use my photos, but it'd be nice if you'd credit. :)
May. 18th, 2006 11:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks, will do.
May. 18th, 2006 05:02 am (UTC)
Comment barrage!
Though the Asian does have many color morphs, anywhere from yellow to deep red, and a variable number of spots from none to quite a lot, it's worth pointing out that "M" shaped marking plust the white eyespots on the prothorax are pretty diagnositc for identifying them.

The multicolored asian ladybug is actually considered a pest. During the winter months, they will form huge congregations in houses and other buildings. Besides the disturbing presence of thousands of insects in your home, they have also been associated with allergic reactions.

For this reason, most ladybugs sold for release by home gardeners are either the Convergent Lady Beetle Hippodamia convergens or C7, the Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle Coccinella septumpunctata. Both of these species are voracious predators, but don't congregate together. And, anecdotally, these species seem to be much less aggressive when picked up than the Asians.
May. 18th, 2006 09:43 am (UTC)
Re: Comment barrage!
Thanks so much for all the information, as usual. If I manage to get a book out of this project, some entomologist I know is going to get a big thanks in the acknowledgements (at this point you probably deserve an editing/consulting credit).

I'm almost afraid to ask: do you think there's a chance I made the right identification on my ladybug, or is my specimen H. convergens? (I made my ID based on the white M on the prothorax.)
May. 18th, 2006 04:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, yours is definitely an Asian - you can clearly see that M. H. convergens (as seen in mercureal's pics) has two angled white lines and a thin white border on the prothorax.
May. 18th, 2006 12:21 pm (UTC)
Re: Comment barrage!
During the winter months, they will form huge congregations in houses and other buildings.

My sister had that problem a few years ago in Vermont.
May. 18th, 2006 12:38 pm (UTC)
After closely examining a ladybug, one of my kids told her mom that "If it didn't have any wings, it would be an ant!"
Aug. 6th, 2006 03:39 am (UTC)
I think the Ladybird comes second in "cutest insect". The butterfly wins by a mile in the PR department.
Jun. 17th, 2007 12:46 am (UTC)

baby ladybug
Jul. 30th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
Who is this?
Hi, I recently found a dark red ladybug with white 'circles' around black spots. 8 spots in total. I have never seen one like this in south western Ontario & managed to get a good picture (which I don't know how to post...) Can someone tell me what it was and if it's a 'good' one for my Asian lilies?

Please let me know @ elioslondon@yahoo.ca & I can e-mail the pic for better ID... If not no worries it was just curiosity :)


Jul. 30th, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
Re: Who is this?
My email is in my profile info if you want to send it!
you can also send it to bugguide.net where the real experts are. Sounds like quite a critter!
Aug. 1st, 2009 05:32 pm (UTC)
Who is this?
Hi, thanx for helping me ID it! Feel free to post the pix I sent :)

Lakeside, Oxford County, South Western Ontario
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )


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