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What is a Ladybug?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A ladybug is a member of the Coccunellidae family, which includes thousands of insect species. Many people think of bright red beetles with black spots when they hear the word "ladybug," although these beneficial insects can be found in a wide range of colors, with and without markings. Ladybugs live in gardens around the world, and they are often welcome visitors, since they eat agricultural pests like aphids. The distinctive coloration of some species has made them familiar to casual observers, and many societies have myths or songs which feature ladybugs.

Technically, a ladybug is a beetle, not a bug. Other common names for ladybugs include lady birds and lady beetles; the "lady" is believed to reference the seven classic spots on a Coccinella septempunctata, which represent the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary in some cultural traditions. In addition to classic red, ladybugs can also be found in yellow, orange, green, gray, white, and brown, and some ladybugs have black bodies with colored spots, rather than black spots on a colored body.

These useful insects are predators, feeding on a range of insects smaller than themselves. In a garden, a healthy ladybug population can minimize insect pests which could ruin a tree or shrub or at cause unsightly browning and wilting of beloved plants. Farmers also like to encourage ladybugs to hang around, since they will eat the larvae of some very harmful crop pests which could devastate an entire crop if left unchecked. Ladybugs will also live indoors if well cared for, and they can make interesting pets during the winter.

Brightly colored ladybugs use their color as a natural defense, since many predators learn that brightly colored animals and plants are harmful. Ladybugs are also capable of secreting a smelly, sticky, bitter liquid from their joints; this liquid helps to deter predators who may have decided that a ladybug would make a tasty snack.

Males and females of many species look very similar, except to trained biologists. Ladybugs generally mate in the spring, producing a large clutch of eggs which is usually laid near a colony of aphids or other small insects. When the larvae hatch, they can feed on the insects until they get big enough to fly and find fresh food of their own. Ladybugs can also hibernate for brief periods, which allows companies to ship them by mail to people who want ladybugs for their classrooms or gardens.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon165696 — On Apr 05, 2011

Ladybugs are also called lady beetles, same thing. The critters you find in your house are Asian ladybugs or beetles and they are real ladybugs! Cousins to the ones we all grew up with.

All ladybugs, including the Asian, actually help us! All ladybugs eat aphids and other small insect pests; they are very important in controlling pests in gardens and on farms. Without ladybugs, farmers would need to use more pesticides. So please, vacuum them up and put them outside. We need them. Think and consider very carefully before putting a poison in your house where it could hurt you, too! Asian ladybug populations often go down naturally after a few years.

By anon85056 — On May 18, 2010

thank you for the informative response! i will be sure and go to lowe's or home depot and see what they have to offer to get rid of these dang things! asian lady beetles huh? thanks for that information as i never knew what the little buggers were called!

By anon83825 — On May 12, 2010

My friend moved out to the country to live in a log cabin, which was infested with Asian lady beetles (not ladybugs), and they really infested the place. They swarmed the house in the fall, wanting to come in out of the cold, and I think she said they came in through the little chinks log cabins have.

They don't eat anything, thankfully; they live on what fat reserves they have. She vacuumed and vacuumed, using the nylon stocking trick to trap them. Real pests, they were! She went and got something at a Home Depot or a garden supply store, a spray, and that helped.

If you go and describe your infestation, they should be able to point you to the right product.

By anon83383 — On May 10, 2010

i know what i have are not true lady bugs, even though they look so close to being the real thing. These, when you pick them up (to throw them outside) have an antenna type thing that pokes out of their 'butt'. I've only seen about 100 of them inside the house at the beginning of warm weather last year, but while eating dinner one night, out of the clear blue, one came flying out of nowhere and flew right into my mouth. Others have landed on my food, flying in from nowhere. Outside of the house, i've seen thousands of them on my gutters but they are too high up to do anything about except for shooting them with the water hose, then they come right back.

Needless to say, I'm not looking forward to warmer temperatures as i know that they will be right back, inside and out.

I'm at my wits' end already with no easy solution. the pest control folks said that they had nothing to fix the problem or kill these dang things. Vacuuming does only so much good as it only gets a few, leaving hundreds of them to show up later.

i don't know what they eat, I'm just thankful that they are not like termites and do damage.

By anon83154 — On May 09, 2010

Trivia: In the U.K. we call them Ladybirds.

By anon82907 — On May 08, 2010

Perhaps if you are infested indoors with lady bugs, it is a sign that you have another infestation of insects as the ladybugs would not survive without a food source. Personally, I would rather keep the ladybugs to keep whatever else is around and about--natural insect control that would do you/pets no harm but devastate (eat) the others!

By anon82906 — On May 08, 2010

The ones driving you out of your home are Asian Beetles, not true Lady Bugs. They bite. I know, I didn't believe it either until standing by the road one summer day with my husband. A friend had driven up and waved us over to talk.

Not uncommon in rural Kentucky as many roads, like ours are only traveled by those who live on them and dead end at the other end. My husband said an expletive (bleep!) and slapped his leg. I asked what happened and he said he'd been bit. When his hand came up, there was the proof, the crushed body of the orangish brown with spots. Asian beetles had clustered all winter at every corner of every room in our house. It left a mosquito like bump. Use the vacuum on them!

By somerset — On Feb 14, 2009

Here is a tip I have never tried, but did hear about. It is an inexpensive way of removing ladybugs from indoors by using the vacuum. Place a stocking inside the long extension tube (to act as a filter) with the end of the stocking secured at the end of the tube with a rubber band.

Turn on the vacuum cleaner and suck the ladybugs into the stocking. When done, tie the end of the stocking with all the ladybugs inside it. You can take your unwanted company and release them where they belong, outdoors.

Ladybugs are really beneficial in the garden.

By fourpawsx4 — On Feb 14, 2009

I am looking for a sure fire way to rid my home of the infestation of what looks like lady bugs without having to pay someone for their top secret way of doing it. I recently lost my job so its not like I have the money to send off for some book or download. My home is infested something fierce! Can anyone tell me how to get rid of these darn lady bugs?

By somerset — On Feb 18, 2008

If your garden does not have enough ladybugs, they can be purchased and carefully released on the plants that are being attacked by aphids. Ladybugs will stick around and reproduce as long as there is sufficient food supply.

One female will be responsible for up to 1000 offspring after one mating.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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