There are at least 5,000 known species of Ladybird worldwide. Ladybirds or Ladybugs are the common United Kingdom and American names for them, they are actually called Coccinellidae or Coccinellids. They are actually a type of beetle, from within the Coleoptera (or beetle) order of insects.
- They range in size from one to ten millimetres and also in colour. Most commonly, they are known to be scarlet with black spots; however they can also be orange or yellow with black spots. Some are actually all black, brown or grey with no spots. They all have black heads, legs and antennae.
- Many of the species feed on aphids, mealy bugs, mites, planthoppers, leafhoppers and other scale insect pests.
- They are often used as a natural method of pest control, by many gardeners and crop growers.
- It is pure myth that you can tell the age of a Ladybird by the number of spots on its back.
- The bright colours of the Ladybird are to ward off predators. Both the larvae and adult Ladybird will release a yellow alkaloid toxin, via its joints to prevent being eaten, whilst others will actually spray a venomous toxin.
- The Ladybirds colouring is actually on their wing casings. These are a modified, hardened forewing. These protect their hindwings, which they actually use for flying. They can then fly with the forewings whilst the wing casing is still extended.
- During winter months, Ladybirds will hibernate on south facing sheds, garages, specially made Ladybird houses, or in trees, in tree bark or in leaf litter.
- They often hibernate in groups – sometimes as many as a thousand will be together in one place.
- They re-emerge in spring. In the United Kingdom this is usually in March or April. As they are one of the first insects to emerge in spring, they need early blooming flowers for nectar and pollen.
- Ladybirds don’t bite when handled by humans; however they can give you a little pinch if feeling threatened.
There is a subfamily called Epilachninae that are herbivores. The Asian, Harlequin or Multicoloured Ladybird is actually a threat to our native Ladybirds, as well as Lacewings and Butterflies. You can identify the Harlequin Ladybird in a number of ways.
The Harlequin is rounder than our native Ladybird, slightly larger (usually 6-8 mm) and it can be red, orange or black. The spots are of various sizes and quantities – ranging from none to 19 and are not usually uniformly round. It has brown legs and the hind rim of its underside is red. It also has a white triangle mark on its head.