Ladybird Beetles (Coccinellidae), lady beetles or ladybugs, as they are also commonly know, are a family of popular beetles in the larger beetle order, Coleoptera.
Their popularity can be credited to both their bright colors and their helpfulness. Ladybugs are considered beneficial insects because their diet consists of garden pests such as aphids and mites.
Attesting to their popularity, six states, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, have designated the ladybug as the official state insect or official state bug.
Ladybug Life Cycle
Types of Beetles
Types of Insects
Unfortunately, ladybug popularity has its drawbacks.
Their utility to humans translated into large importations of non-native species for agriculture purposes.
The Nine Spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella novemnotata), for example, New York's state insect, use to be one of the most common ladybugs in the Northeast United States. Finding one today in New York, or any place in the Northeast is a very challenging task.
Scientists hypothesize that one species, the Seven-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata), a European native introduced into areas of the Northeast United States in the Post-WWII era to fight aphids, out competed other species for the available plant and food sources in many areas.
Its range now extends from coast to coast, and it has been identified as a potential cause of native lady beetle population declines, including the Nine-spotted Lady Beetle.
The large seven spots on the wings, and the facial pattern provide good identification clues.
The western subspecies, Coccinella trifasciata subversa, picture one, often, but not always, has a few small spots on the elytra. The facial pattern serves as the key field identification clue for this subspecies.
The predominantly eastern subspecies, Coccinella trifasciata perplexa, can easily be identified by three dark bands on each elytra.
While the traditional dark spotted lady beetle pattern holds for many species, the Cycloneda, a small genus of spotless lady beetles, tend to buck that general physical trend.
The Polished Lady Beetle (Cycloneda munda), native to the East, and the Spotless Lady Beetle (Cycloneda sanguinea), native to the West, first picture in the composite on the right, account for the bulk of the population.
The second most common species appearance, black wings with orange to red spots, reverses the typical lady beetle wing pattern.
North America lists hosts approximately two dozen Hyperaspis species. Their predominantly black bodies come covered with bright red, yellow or orange patterns.
Picture two shows Hyperaspis postica, a black elytra species native to the West Coast.
At first glance, it might be mistaken for the twice-stabbed lady beetle (Chilocorus cacti), another black elytra species with two red spots. However, the spots on Chilocorus cacti tend to be larger and closer to the middle of the body.
The Anatis genus of Lady Beetles can often be recognized by their unusually distinct spots and facial markings.
The eye-spotted species, for example, have distinct eye rings around their spots. The fifteen-spotted species come in red and white wing colors.
Picture three shows Anatis rathvoni, or Rathvon's Lady Beetle, showing some partial eye rings around the wing spots.
With so many spotted lady beetles, the name Spotted Lady Beetle (Coleomegilla maculata) can come across as meaningless.
Some times is is called a twelve-spotted lady beetle or pink lady beetle, because it's color can sometimes appear pinkish.
Coleomegilla maculata is a very common Eastern species, present in smaller populations in the Southwest.
The species at the bottom of the image on the right side of the page, the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis), receives considerable attention because of its tendency to congregate in large numbers, possibly thousands, during the fall and winter hibernation period.
Walls of residential structures provide especially good refuge, transforming these otherwise beneficial insects into part time pests. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers a few pest management suggestions, saying,
"Preventing the lady beetles from entering is the best approach to keeping them from becoming a household nuisance in fall and winter. Caulking exterior cracks and crevices before the lady beetles seek overwintering sites is the best way to keep them out. This will also keep out other unwanted insects such as wasps, and will save homeowners money on energy costs."
When preventative measures They also provide information about a system for trapping the insects.
Identifying the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle can be problematic because of the variation in its colors and spots.
The picture highlights a more common form, with the insect having multiple spots on the wings.
The large number of ladybug species also brings with it a naming problem. So many ladybugs, so few common names.
Wing color, wing patterns patterns and facial patterns often explain common names for specific species. In all cases they also serve as basic ladybug field identification clues.
© 2005-2012 Patricia A. Michaels