21 Exciting & Fascinating Facts About Ladybugs

21 Fascinating Facts About Ladybugs

When we think of ladybugs, we may imagine good-luck symbols, recall early childhood nursery rhymes, or simply smile as we conjure up their bright and cheery appearance. Most of us, however, probably don’t think of cannibals, predators, or attacks on humans. Despite being arguably the most cherished and well-loved of insects, these cute and colourful critters are hiding some dark secrets! Keep reading to learn 21 astonishing facts about ladybugs…. 

21 Facts About Ladybugs

21 Facts About Ladybugs
  1. The ‘ladybird’ (English) or ‘ladybug’ (American English) is a small flying insect belonging to the Coccinellidae family of arthropod invertebrates. It is neither a bird, nor a bug, as its more colloquial names might imply, but, in fact, a beetle. Entomologists often give the ladybug the rather more scientifically accurate moniker of ‘ladybeetle’. There are currently around 6,000 known species of ladybeetles. 
  2. The family name Coccinellidae is derived from the Latin coccineus, which means scarlet, although not all ladybugs are red in colour as this name may suggest. In fact, their colours can range from black, to yellow, to brown, to red, to orange. Their trademarks spots are often black in most species but can be found in a spectrum of colours. As the ladybug ages, its colours fade. 
  3. Ladybugs are found in almost every country on the planet, but they thrive best in temperate climates with plenty of vegetation, although they can survive perfectly well in cities and in proximity to water. In colder weather, ladybugs like to seek out warm hiding places to hibernate. Often, thousands of ladybugs will form colonies to hibernate together and share warmth.  fact about ladybugs
  4. The lifecycle of ladybugs consists of four distinct stages; egg, larva, pupa, and adult beetle. Adults lay their eggs on the underside of leaves, and these eggs take around a week to hatch into larvae. Initially, the larvae will measure around 3 millimetres, although they grow quickly and shed their outer layers 4 times over a period of around three to four weeks. The larvae will differ in appearance depending upon the species of the ladybug. Once fully grown, the larva transforms into an immobile pupa for around a week, before undergoing its final metamorphosis into a fully grown ladybug, measuring just a centimetre long. 
  5. Many of us will be familiar with the old wives’ tale about the spots on a ladybug’s back revealing the ladybugs’ age, but this is not true. Whilst the average lifespan of a ladybug is around one to two years, some ladybirds have as many as 24 spots, and some have no spots at all! The amount of spots a ladybird has is determined by the species they belong to, and these spotted patterns have evolved over millennia. So clearly, not an accurate indication of age. In fact, the spots serve a very important purpose. They act as a visual defence mechanism to deter potential prey from eating the ladybug. These vivid colour displays are used by many animals and plants in nature, known as aposematic colouring, warning predators not to eat them as they will taste nasty and may be poisonous. 
  6. Ladybugs have two sets of wings, an outer set, and an inner set. The outer set, known as ‘elytra’ are not functional in flight, but protect the functional wings. When the ladybug flies, the elytra open to reveal the flight wings concealed beneath. Elytra form part of the ladybugs’ exoskeleton, and are made from the same protein as human fingernails! 
  7. Ladybugs can reach a top-flight speed of 37 miles per hour! Whilst in flight, their wings flap approximately 85 times per second, and researchers have recorded ladybugs flying distances of up to 74 miles in a single flight!  facts about ladybugs
  8. A group of ladybugs is called a loveliness
  9. Ladybugs are largely considered to be a beneficial species, particularly to gardeners and farmers. Most species are carnivores and act as a natural pesticide by feeding on aphids, tiny insects that attack and destroy crops and other plants. There are, however, some more problematic, herbivorous species of ladybug, such as the Mexican Bean Beetle, which will eat crops and are themselves considered pests. 
  10. Ladybugs are highly effective predators with insatiable appetites, feasting on up to 5000 aphids over their lifetime. Even the larvae are voracious predators. Each larva can consume up to 100 aphids per day. Ladybugs will lay their eggs in amongst aphid colonies to ensure that the larvae will have access to food as soon as they hatch. 
  11. Ladybugs secrete a blood-like substance called haemolymph when they sense danger. It has a pungent odour that is intended to ward off predators, particularly birds. They can also play dead in order to trick predators. 
  12. In many languages, the names of ladybugs are steeped in superstition and symbolism. In some Northern European languages, ladybugs are named after cows, as the spots of the ladybug supposedly resemble the spots of a cow. In both Irish (Bóín Dé,) and Russian, (Bozhya korovka), the names translate to ‘little cow of god’. In Korea, ladybugs are called 무당벌레 (pron. mudang beolle), which translates to ‘witch-doctor insect’ or ‘sorceress insect’ because the brightly coloured robes worn by traditional witch-doctors when performing rituals are reminiscent of the scarlet ladybug. In Turkish, ladybugs are known as uğur böceği, which means ‘lucky bugs’ or ‘good-luck bugs’, as they are thought to be lucky omens.  ladybug fact
  13. In Christian Europe, it is thought that the vernacular name ‘ladybird’ originated in the Middle Ages, where the common European seven spotted variety were known as “Our Lady’s Bird”. “Our Lady”, or Mary, Mother of Jesus, was often depicted in Christian iconography wearing scarlet red robes akin to the hue of the ladybug. The ladybugs’ seven spots were thought to symbolise Mary’s Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys. In German, the ladybug is known as marienkäfer, or ‘marybeetle’. In Spanish, ladybugs are known as mariquita, meaning ‘little mary’.
  14. The Asian Harlequin species are particularly notorious for their relative aggression compared to other species and have a propensity to nibble on human flesh. Although their bites are not strong enough to break the skin, their haemolymphic secretions can cause irritation. This species is also infamous for invading homes in large numbers in search of warmth in the winter. 
  15. Ladybugs are thought to have been around for hundreds of millions of years, since at least the Cretaceous period, possibly even before dinosaurs and snakes. The earliest ladybug fossils date back to the Eocene period, around 50 million years ago, and many of them have been preserved in amber, like the mosquito from Jurassic Park! 
  16. Despite their cute appearance, ladybugs have been known to practice cannibalism, eating other adults or their larvae when food is scarce. Whilst laying fertile eggs, the ladybug will often lay extra, unfertilised eggs to serve as a reserve food source for the larvae once they emerge. 
  17. In 1999, NASA sent a small colony of four ladybugs into space to examine how aphids might escape from predators in zero-gravity. As it turned out, the aphids were unable to avoid the ladybugs, even in different atmospheric conditions. The ladybugs survived the trip, the aphids didn’t. ladybug facts
  18. In 1976, a 45-day heatwave in Great Britain destroyed the aphid population and drove swarms of ladybirds to turn to human flesh for nourishment. Numerous people reported being bitten or even repeatedly attacked by the ladybugs. 
  19. ‘Wine Taint’ is a common and costly problem in vineyards which is caused when dead ladybugs become unintentionally introduced to the winemaking process and are crushed with the grapes. The crushed ladybug carcasses release chemicals into the wine which cause unpleasant flavours and aromas in the finished product, meaning the whole batch is ruined.
  20. Something of an anomaly in the insect world, ladybugs hold quite a dear place in our hearts. In many western cultures, the ladybug is a cherished good-luck omen, particularly if one chooses to land on you. In some parts of Europe, if a ladybug walks across a young lady’s hand, it is said to signify that the lady will soon be married. Ladybugs are also thought to bring fortune and prosperity to those who encounter them. In other cultures, ladybugs are believed to grant wishes to those who are lucky enough to hold one. When released, whatever direction the ladybug flies will be the direction that the wish will come from! To the superstitious among us, it is considered deeply unlucky to kill a ladybird, and those who do so will be cursed with sadness and grief.
  21. In French folklore, there is a tale that tells of an innocent prisoner who was wrongly accused of a crime and sentenced to death. On the day of his execution, the prisoner’s head was placed on the guillotine when a ladybug landed on his neck and refused to fly off, despite repeated attempts to shoo it away. The King believed this persistent ladybug to be divine intervention and could not go ahead with the execution. The prisoners’ life was spared and he was able to prove his innocence and regain his freedom, all thanks to the ladybug! 
See also
How to Get Rid of Raccoons (And Keep Them Out!)

Wrap Up

Wrap Up

The ladybugs’ cute and colourful appearance is a perpetually welcome sight in gardens and meadows the world over, bringing with them luck, positivity, and prosperity. Yet from Christian iconography, to cannibalism, to pest-control, this tiny, unassuming arthropod has a surprisingly fascinating and sometimes disturbing history. Next time a ladybug is spotted in your garden, perhaps you will be lucky enough to hold it and have your wish granted!


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Emily Grice

Emily Grice

Em Grice is a content writer specialising in horticulture and botany who combines her respect for the natural world with her love for the written word. A regular contributor - with a First Class Honours BA in Politics and Sociology and MA in History - to a range of international publications and organisations, she is most at peace when pottering in her own little garden in the north of England

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