Ladybird beetle

 Since childhood, I wondered why the pretty tiny looking insect is called ladybird, when neither it is a bird and nor all of them are female too. As I grew I heard a new word for the insect – ladybug but soon I learned it is not a bug it is a beetle.

FACT #1 Technically they are lady beetles, not ladybugs.

Ladybirds have all characteristics which beetles have but not bugs have- chewing mouthparts, harder wings, undergoing complete metamorphosis and eating diet comprising of plants and animals.

In some parts of the world, they are called lady beetles or in Europe, they are called ladybird beetles.

FACT #2 The ‘lady’ part of their name is said to refer to the Virgin Mary.

Ladybugs, or ladybird beetles, got their name about 500 years ago in Europe. It seems that farmers were having big trouble with insects called aphids (AY-fids). The aphids were sucking the juices from the farmers’ grape vines. So the farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. (People of some religions believe that Mary is the Mother of God.)

Later, lots of little red beetles showed up and ate the aphids. The farmers thought their prayers had been answered. So they named the helpful beetles in honor of Mary, who is also known as “Our Lady.”

FACT #3 Why farmers like ladybirds?

Ladybirds are voracious eaters. In fulfilling their hunger they eat a lot of crop-damaging insects and thus safeguard farmer’s crops.

They are well known for their appetite They consume around 5000 aphids in a year. In fact, if food is scarce, ladybugs eat other ladybirds. Yes, it is true, they practice cannibalism which means they even eat members of their own family.

FACT #4 Not all ladybirds are red.

Although ladybugs are often thought of as being red but they also appear in a multitude of other colors depending on their species. These colors include both orange and yellow. To a lesser degree, they include black, gray, pink and blue, too.

FACT #5 Female ladybirds are larger than male ladybirds.

FACT #6 How ladybirds look like?

Most ladybirds have oval, dome-shaped bodies with six short legs. Depending on the species, they can have spots, stripes or no markings at all. Seven-spotted ladybugs are red (or sometimes orange) with three spots on each side and one in the middle. Their head is black with white patches on either side. 

Lady beetle Wings

Like most beetles, ladybirds have two sets of wings. The forward set, called elytra, is a hard material and acts as protection for the more delicate underlying rear set which the insect uses for flying.

The ladybird’s bright colors act as an important defense mechanism, warning animals they would best not eat them.

FACT #7 How ladybirds react when they are threatened?

 A threatened ladybug may both play dead or secretes an awful smelling fluid from their leg joints to protect them.

FACT#8 Who eats lady beetles?

Despite their numerous defenses, there are a lot of animals and insects that prey upon and eat Ladybugs. Birds such as Swallows, Martins, and Swifts. Insects like Dragonflies, Assassin bugs and Parasitic Wasps, Tree Frogs, Ants, Anole, fungus, and even other Ladybugs.

FACT #9 Ladybirds are harmless to humans.

They don’t sting, and while they may occasionally bite, their bites don’t cause serious injury or spread disease.

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