Who hasn’t greeted ladybugs with surprise and delight? These beetles are full-grown at less than a half-inch and live for 2-3 years. Children of all ages seem fascinated by ladybugs because of their small size, bright color and their willingness to walk a while on your finger and fly away when they tire of the adventure. Ladybugs are speedy – flying at 15 MPH.
When your family is out walking in the neighborhood, look for ladybugs feasting on aphids – their favorite food – or other small insects. They use their antennae to touch, smell and taste and eat as many as 50 aphids a day! The instant they are born, ladybugs start eating. By the end of six weeks, they can eat 5,000 aphids. Because of their huge appetites, they are an important way to protect plants. Farmers use them to protect crops instead of using chemicals.
Not all ladybugs are red. I have seen colonies of hundreds of red, spotted ladybugs. They are also yellow, orange, gray, black, brown and pink. More than 500 species of ladybugs live in the US and 5,000 around the world. Some don’t have spots. As a ladybug ages, spots fade.
Ladybugs play dead when threatened, releasing a foul smelling liquid that helps defend themselves from predators. Dragonflies, ants, crows and other insect-eating birds love to feast on ladybugs.