More commonly known as the ladybug, the ladybird beetle can be found all over Maryland, with over forty-five species recorded. Chances are, your first memory of a ladybug was when one landed on you, and a friend shouted, “That’s good luck!”. But a ladybug’s luck transcends the human species; they are incredibly beneficial to gardens as they feast on destructive insect pests such as aphids and mealybugs.
Becoming one of the most notorious “garden” predators is no easy task. The first stage of a ladybug’s life begins when females lay bright yellow eggs in bunches of 5-50 on the underside of leaves. Some of the eggs are fertilized, and others are not, so when the eggs begin to hatch a few days later, they have easy access to food. The next stage is the larval stage, where the ladybugs look nothing like they do as adults. You may have even seen
some of these around without even knowing it! These ravenous creatures have black elongated bodies that are segmented and covered in an array of yellow or orange dots. Interestingly enough, during this stage, their bodies have been said to look like alligators!
After about a month, the larvae head back under the leaves where they hatch into a pupa. Unlike the larvae, the pupa looks very similar to the adult form, but maintains more of an orange color. That stage in the ladybug’s life can last up to two weeks. Which takes us to the fourth and final stage- adults.
Adult ladybugs have the typical round, convex shell with colors that vary from red to orange to yellow and various black dots. Ladybugs cannot fly until temperatures reach 55 degrees F, at which time they can be seen flying around, helping rid gardens of aphid infestations and feeding on the nectar from flowering plants. They take a particular liking to yarrow and cosmos, or garden crops like tomatoes, peas, and asparagus.
When the winter months come around, adults can be found hibernating in large groups, usually under the bark of a tree or cozied up in the crevices of your woodpile. So make sure to check your logs before tossing them on the fire!
When temperatures begin to rise in spring, the ladybugs will wake up, mate immediately, and the cycle begins again. If you happen to see a ladybug in the Coastal Bays watershed, snap a picture and upload it to the Maryland Coastal Bays Program iNaturalist group!
Liz Wist is the Education Coordinator at the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. Liz is responsible for the development, creation, and evaluation of environmental education programs. Within these programs, she designs curriculum, leads environmental programs and workshops, mentors seasonal staff, and provides professional development for educators. Liz is also responsible for organizing and facilitating MCBP community engagement opportunities such as Discover Your Watershed, Bay Day, and Living Local. For more information on education programs, please visit MCBP’s Education page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.