Ladybirds – cute little predators

Lunate Ladybird

Like many people I have always been intrigued by Ladybirds. They have striking colours and seem quite content to crawl all over your hand if you pick them up. Some people believe that Ladybirds are lucky. In some countries, such as Russia, people sometimes make a wish upon seeing a Ladybird.

Ladybirds aren’t such cute creatures if you happen to be an aphid. These little bugs have a big appetite for aphids which makes them a friend of gardeners. Any creature that helps control aphids is welcome in my garden! It beats spraying chemicals on these plant sucking creatures. According to National Geographic, the Seven-spot Ladybird (which doesn’t occur in South Africa), lives for a year and eats around 5,000 aphids in that time.

What do ladybirds larval form look like?

While most of us are very familiar with adult ladybirds, few of us would be able to identify them in their larval form. At this stage in their development, they are longer and covered in spines. Do you know that not all ladybirds are red! Some species are orange, yellow or black. Their distinctive colouration is a signal to predators that they are distasteful. When threatened they secrete a smelly and distasteful fluid from their legs. Despite these defence mechanisms they are, however, preyed upon by birds, spiders, dragonflies, frogs and wasps.

Meet the Lunate Ladybird

The species of Ladybird shown in the photo is a Lunate Ladybird (Cheilomenes lunata). They grow to about 7 mm in length. They are active during the day and predominantly feed on aphids. The Lunate Ladybird is normally black with red patches, but some are black with yellow.

There are about 5,000 species of Ladybirds in the world. In some countries they are referred to as Ladybugs or Lady Beetles. They are found in all countries except for the most northerly regions of America, Europe and Asia

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