Happy Valentine’s Day!
Ladybugs remind me of little Valentine hearts scurrying around plants. But, instead of shooting arrows of love, they prefer to suck up nasty aphids to bring love to our gardens.
Here are some fabulous and fascinating facts about ladybugs, a popular garden carnivore:
- Funny thing is, ladybugs aren’t even bugs. They’re beetles! They belong to the order of Coleoptera. The word Coleoptera comes from 2 Greek words: “koleos”meaning sheath and “ptera” meaning wings. They are often referred to as lady beetles, and in German, they are called Marienkäfers, or Mary’s beetles (referring the Virgin Mary).
- There are about 5,000 species of ladybugs in the world and not all of them are red with black spots. They range in color from yellow to orange to brown. Some are plain; some have stripes or zig-zags; and some have the iconic spots.
- A ladybug can eat as many as 5,000 aphids in a lifetime. Talk about beneficial insect Hall of Fame! They like a little variety too and are known to munch on fruit flies, thrips, mites, and other insects that are destructive to our gardens.
- Not only are ladybugs voracious predators, but they are also masters (or mistresses) of defense. Their bright colors, shiny wing shields, and markings serve as a warning to other predatory insects and insect-eating birds. In case their color doesn’t send a strong enough warning, they also secrete a toxic substance that is noxious to any potential predator. Don’t worry they’re harmless to humans.
- In honor of Valentine’s Day, ladybugs also have a fascinating mating ritual, which is shown in this PBS Digital Video.