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Not so lady-like after all

April 12, 2014
An adult Transverse Ladybird Beetle (Coccinella transversalis)

An adult Transverse Ladybird Beetle (Coccinella transversalis)

Ladybird Beetles or Ladybirds are of the family Coccinellidae, from the Latin word coccineus meaning scarlet. The term Ladybird or Lady Beetle originates from British red, seven-spotted ladybird. The ‘Lady’ refers to The Virgin Mary, who is often depicted in early paintings wearing a red cloak, and the seven spots symbolise the seven joys and seven sorrows of Mary.

The common Ladybird image is of a cute, benign creature – pretty to look at (usually orange/red with black markings) and beneficial in the garden for reducing pests. This image is further promoted by cartoons of the insect world, such as Minuscule on ABC-TV, where ladybirds are the ‘good guys’ whose main sport is to vex the poor hapless spiders.

The truth is slightly different. Adult and larval ladybirds are voracious predators of aphids, scale insects, mites and if food is scarce, each other. A fully grown larva will consume several

Larval Common Spotted Ladybird (Harmonia conformis) eating a ladybird pupa

Larval Common Spotted Ladybird (Harmonia conformis) eating a ladybird pupa

hundred aphids per week. A ladybird larva moves around using a combination of its six legs and the tip of the abdomen, which can attach itself to surfaces. During feeding, a larva may suspend itself by the abdomen, leaving the legs free to grasp prey.

The red colour serves as a warning for ladybird predators. As extra protection, when disturbed ladybirds may exude an off-smelling toxic liquid. Not so lady-like after all.

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