The ladybug or ladybird beetle is one of the most popular insect all over the world. It is familiar because of its polka-dotted body covering and its association with the springtime. But did you know that ladybugs are not actually bugs? Taxonomically speaking, ladybugs belong to order coleoptera or the beetle order. To date, there are about 5,000 identified species of ladybugs and many more have yet to be discovered! Familiar species of ladybird beetle in the United States includes the seven-spotted ladybug, the one that appears to be a Volkswagen in polka-dots! Some folk call ladybugs as ladyflies. This insect is so popular that some cultures even consider its mere presence as a good luck charm.
Do you want to know more about this lucky little insect? Continue reading as we explore amazing concepts about ladybugs. This article will discuss:
- Does a ladybug bite?
- What do ladybugs eat?
- What do ladybugs drink?
- What to feed a pet ladybug?
- How to take care of ladybugs in your garden?
Do ladybugs bite?
If you try to look for ladybugs picture over the internet, you might notice some photos that describe ladybugs as kind mothers or old ladies attending their grandchildren. This is a complete irony if we talk about its feeding habit. Majority of the ladybugs specious are carnivores and are fierce predator of bugs smaller than them! But, do ladybugs bite humans? The answer is no, they don’t! Ladybugs are completely harmless to us. So the next time you are in your garden and notice some ladybugs lurking around your plants, try not to get rid of it just because of your fear that it might hurt you.
Despite the fact that it can’t harm us, ladybugs are designed to be toxic and even fatal to some animals, especially the ones who prey on them. For example, ladybugs emit a foul smelling liquid that act as deterrent. This yellow liquid is their blood. This will tell their predators to back off because of the risks of being poisoned.
What do ladybugs eat?
Most people want to observe ladybugs because they are fascinating to watch. Farmers love ladybugs because they control insect pest population. What do ladybugs eat in the wild? They consume soft bodied and small insects, mostly aphids. An aphid is an insect which is labeled as pest because it sucks the sap of the plant and transmits various plant diseases. An onslaught attack of an aphid colony can eventually kill a healthy and mature plant; an outbreak can even destroy your garden.
But don’t worry! Ladybugs eat aphids! And a ladybug can eat up to 5000 individual aphids through its lifetime. This fact makes ladybug a favorite insect for farmers that are trying to get rid of aphid population in their farm. A healthy ladybird beetle colony can suppress strong aphid infestation in a short period of time!
But take note: not all types of ladybugs are carnivorous or insectivorous, some species of ladybirds much on leaves, pollen or even mushrooms. Some species of ladybugs are even considered as pest. The Ephilancna species of ladybugs is considered to be a major pest of some high value commercial crops across the world.
But yes, the majority of the ladybugs species are predators that help gardeners and controlling g aphids and other disastrous Lepidoptera larvae or caterpillars. Ladybugs choose to lay eggs on the underside of the leaves near its prey colonies. When this yellowish eggs hatch, the ladybug larvae will almost automatically search for food! First, it will munch on the infertile eggs that won’t hatch and will eventual turn into voracious eaters of aphids and small and newly hatched caterpillars!
What do pet ladybugs eat?
A ladybug rearing is one of the best and enjoyable ways of teaching your kids responsibility in keeping animals as pets. As we have said earlier in the discussion, ladybugs won’t bite and are harmless, so its perfect for your young scientists!
Ladybugs are not active food hunters during the winter, so you can collect some and keep it with your kids over the season. If you are not able to create a specialized terrarium for your ladybugs, you can use and ordinary jar for the same purpose of housing your pet. Don’t forget to get your housing some ventilation by punching several holes to it, if you are using a jar then you have to punch hole on its lid. These holes will make the exchange of gases and ventilation possible.
Mimic ladybugs natural habitat by placing some dried leaves or twigs on your housing. This practice will make your new pet ladybugs comfortable on its new environment.
The best food you can give your pet ladybugs are live aphids. But don’t worry about spending too much time collecting such disgusting little critters; you can give them substitute diet! Your pet ladybugs can consume raisins. You can also give them small amount of honey as a source of energy.
What do ladybugs drink?
What do ladybugs drink? Do they? The answer is yes! Water is also one of the key in successful ladybug breeding. Some newbie ladybug enthusiasts keep standing water near their pets inside the terrarium. This is one of the main reasons why the ladybugs die, and it’s because of drowning. So instead of using bottle cap as watering through, you can wet some paper, paper towel or cotton balls and have it placed near your pets. Some pet ladybug owners even soak cotton balls with honey or sugar solution (1:1). This will ensure that the insects will get the energy requirements they need.
How to release your ladybugs
When the spring comes, let your children release the ladybugs that survived captivity to unite with their ladybug friends in the wild. By this you are teaching your kids the positive sides of letting things go.
If your kids enjoyed rearing ladybugs, you can always buy ladybug larvae at pet stores near you. There you can also buy some specialized types of ladybug food that are commercially produced, so you don’t have to worry about hunting down live foods or preparing it yourself. This will permit your family to enjoy keeping ladybugs as pet whole year round!
How to take care of ladybugs in your garden
If you notice that the ladybug population in your greenhouse is very low, then you have to consider purchasing ladybugs. This method is somewhat known as introduction. Introduction is when you introduce ladybugs or other biological control agents such as predators to an area that’s not having that particular species.
If you own a garden that has very low ladybug population, then you have to augment it to control the aphids. Augmentation is the process of reinforcing the biological control agent’s population for the purpose of eradicating the pest, in our case, the aphids.
Just like other animals, ladybugs hibernate on winter. So if you reside in countries with no winter with temperature range of 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit, you can always buy ladybugs anytime. If you live in a country that has very cruel winter time, it is wise to wait until the winter is over before purchasing ladybugs.
Where can I buy ladybugs? You can buy ladybugs at pet stores, garden centers and nurseries. There are several online sellers at eBay that can ship ladybugs to you.
By the time that you have reached considerable number of ladybugs after keeping it for several months, you have to plan for the perfect timing of releasing them. The best time to release your ladybugs is early in the evening. This is a great schedule because you are giving the newly released ladybugs enough time to adapt to its new environment. Majority of the ladybugs species are diurnal, meaning they can also locate food, water and shelter even at night.
Ladybugs loves humidity, so if your area of release is dry, be sure to sprinkle or spray some water before making the release.
Be sure that there is enough food supply in the area of release. Ladybugs will eventually leave your garden or greenhouse if they found out that the food source is lacking. In order to reproduce, ladybugs need to have an ample supply of pollen and nectar. So give your insects enough supply of legumes and flowering plants. You can plant any of the following:
How to attract ladybugs to visit your garden?
What if you are short of budget or do not want to buy ladybugs? The best option for you is to attract ladybugs. Attracting those means you will find ways of naturally baiting them to your greenhouse or nursery. The most preferred food by ladybugs are aphids and as we mentioned earlier in this post, ladybugs can eat 5000 aphids in its entire life. So please resist the temptation of spraying chemical insecticide when getting rid of aphids because you are also killing beneficial insects along with the bad ones. Instead try to apply what you have learned on what do ladybugs eat. Remember that they love eating aphids.
Try to allow a minimum level of aphid population so ladybugs would be attracted to your garden.
If you are doing this for your greenhouse, make sure that the ladybugs are confined there and cannot get out. Religiously check the perimeter for any possible holes or escape route.
Planting certain plants like cilantro, dill or fennel will increase your chance of attracting friendly ladybugs.
So now that you know the answer to your question “what do ladybugs eat”, then I am confident that you are able to build your own ladybug terrarium now or apply your knowledge about ladybugs in controlling agricultural pest in your farm or garden!