Conservation Corner is a weekly article produced by the Forest County
Lady Beetle, also known as ladybug, refers to all members of the beetle family Coccinellidae, which is comprised of over 400 species in North America. As lady beetles belong to the beetle family, they are not technically “true bugs”, which is a term reserved for species in the Hemiptera (true bug) family.
There are many species of lady beetles that are native to North America and are beneficial predators and feed on pest insects like aphids, chinch bugs, asparagus beetle larvae, alfalfa weevils, bean thrips, potato beetles’ larvae, spider mites, whiteflies, and mealybugs. Some prefer aphids, scales, spider mites, while others might go for other small arthropods or insect eggs. However, they generally have a diverse palate and will consume what they can successfully attack. When needed, they will also supplement with flower nectar, water and honeydew.
Have you ever noticed a pungent odor when around lady beetles? That is a defense mechanism that has evolved in these little creatures called “reflex-bleeding”. That’s right, they exude blood, known as hemolymph, from their leg joints to deter predators!
Lady beetles are commonly used as a natural pest control method in gardens and farms. As mentioned, they are voracious predators of many pest insects. If you are looking to attract lady beetles to your garden, there are a variety of flowering plants, like dill, fennel, and marigolds, that will provide nectar and pollen as a supplemental food. You can also purchase lady beetles from garden centers or online suppliers and release them into your garden during the growing season.
While lady beetles are primarily known for their role as a biocontrol for aphids and other plant pests, some species also serve as important pollinators. The beetles feed on nectar and pollen from a variety of flowering plants and as they move from flower to flower in search of food, they inadvertently transfer pollen from one plant to another. This contributes to the health and productivity of plants and crops in their ecosystems. So, in addition to their pest control services, lady beetles can play a role in supporting plant diversity and ecosystem stability through pollination!
Despite their role as pollinators and pest predators, lady beetles (such as the notorious Asian Lady Beetle) can become a nuisance pest when overwintering in large numbers in homes and other structures. They congregate by the thousands in cracks and crevices and can be wholly annoying. Read about ways to prevent them from congregating in your home or out-buildings as an alternative to pesticides.