Natural Highlights: Fall Ladybugs

  Asian Ladybugs: Look for the "M" behind the head.

  Nine-spotted Ladybug, a rare native species.

Ladybugs are perennial insect favorites - colorful, easily recognized, seen as beneficial in the garden and as emblems of good luck.  Also called lady beetles, ladybirds, and ladybird beetles, ladybugs number some 6,000 species worldwide, all members of the family Coccinellidae.  Most of them are predators on other insects, providing important pest control for gardeners and farmers.  One species, the Asian ladybug (Harmonia axyridis), was actually introduced into the U.S. by the Dept. of Agriculture to provide biological pest control. It might also have hitched a ride on foreign freighters. However it happened, the Asian ladybug is now found throughout the country and seems to be increasing, possibly to the detriment of our native ladybug species which are seen less and less frequently. The Nine-spotted Ladybug (Coccinella novemnotata) is becoming especially rare.  Asian ladybugs also seek warmth and shelter when the weather turns cold, thus becoming an annoyance to homeowners who find piles of them in their window and doorsills, where the insects can emit a foul odor if disturbed.

Once you know what to look for, it's easy to tell native ladybugs from their Asian cousin. Asian ladybugs often have lots more spots than our natives do, but not always - their colors and spots vary widely. The diagnostic feature is the black "M" shape on a white background right behind the head.  You can even consider snapping a photo of any native species you find and sending it to the Lost Ladybug Project to help entomologists figure out what's up with ladybug populations.  Check out the great online resources listed below.

Posted by Cathy Justis at 2:56 PM