Everyone associates a ladybug with a carefree childhood. Surely there is no person who at least once did not hold it in the palm of his hand. There are many rhymes dedicated to this little insect, which the kids read every time she got on their pen. Some consider it a symbol of good luck, others consider it an assistant in the fight against harmful insects in gardens – everyone sympathizes with it.
Origin of the species and description
The ladybug is an ancient arthropod insect that is very common throughout the world, a representative of the Coleoptera order and the ladybug family. This insect received its scientific name Coccinellidae due to its scarlet color. The bug lives almost everywhere. The people called him a cow because of the poisonous white liquid or “milk”, which the insect secretes to scare away predators, and God's, because it helped in the fight against aphids and other pests to preserve the crop, had a meek disposition, did not cause any harm to humans .
In Germany, Switzerland, a tiny insect is called a St. Mary's bug, in South America — the cow of Saint Anthony. There were many legends about this little bug, he was prescribed the ability to influence the weather.
An interesting fact: the Slavs in ancient times considered the ladybug a heavenly creature, a messenger of the sun. That is why it was also often called — “Sun”. The insect was forbidden to drive away, so as not to incur bad luck. A bright bug that flew into a dwelling brought grace.
There are a huge number of varieties of ladybugs: the entire family has more than four thousand species, which in turn are divided into 7 subfamilies and 360 genera. The ladybug differs from other representatives of the Coccinellidae family in the structure of its paws. In the structure of each of them, there are three visible and one hidden segment, so they seem to be three-part.
Appearance and features
The size of the cow ranges from 3.5 to 10 mm. The head of the beetle is small and motionless. Eyes relatively large, antennae with 8-11 segments — very mobile and flexible. The body of a ladybug consists of a pronotum, breast, three pairs of tenacious legs, abdomen, and wings with elytra. The pronotum of the insect is convex, often with spots of various colors and shapes. Beetles fly using the back pair of wings, while the front one, in the process of evolution, was formed into strong elytra, which are now the protection for the main pair of soft wings. Not all ladybugs have the usual scarlet color and black dots on their backs.
From all their diversity, the following varieties can be distinguished:
- two-dotted — bug with body size up to 5 mm. It has a black pronotum, and bright red elytra are decorated with two large black spots;
- seven-spotted — has a size of 7-8 mm, is widespread throughout Europe. Two white spots and 7 black spots stand out on its red back;
- twelve dot — a red or pink bug with an elongated body shape and 12 black spots;
- with thirteen dots – they are distinguished by an elongated body and a dark brown or red-brown color of the back, the spots can merge with each other;
- seventeen-spotted — the size of the insect is not more than 3.5 mm, it has a bright yellow back with black dots;
- blue – found only in Australia;
- ocular – characterized by a large body size up to 10 mm. All black dots on the red or yellow back of the insect are framed by light rims;
- dotless – their size does not exceed 4.5 mm, they have a dark brown color of the back, their body is covered with fine hairs. They are extremely rare in nature.
fourteen-point — characteristic feature of elytron yellow or black;
Not all varieties of ladybug are beneficial to humans. The alfalfa ladybug is a pest for many types of agricultural crops. crops, it actively eats young shoots, destroys the crop of beets, cucumbers, and so on. The bug is distinguished by its small size up to 4 mm, it has a red back strewn with 24 dots.
Where does the ladybug live?
Ladybug is found in almost all, even the most remote corners of the globe, with the exception of northern latitudes. The optimal temperature for this bug — not below 10 degrees Celsius.
They choose to live in:
- forest edges;
- meadows and steppes;
- gardens and orchards;
- can be found in city parks.
Some of the ladybugs with the onset of cold weather fly to the southern latitudes for wintering. They fly very high, during rain or strong winds they fall to the ground and wait out non-flying weather. A large number of bugs die during these flights, especially when accidentally landing or falling into bodies of water from which they can no longer get out. Sometimes you can see the banks of the rivers, literally painted red due to the huge number of dead insects.
That part of ladybugs that does not leave their place of residence for wintering in warm lands gathers in huge scarlet colonies, which can number millions of individuals. They hide in secluded places: under the bark of trees, stones, foliage, fly into living quarters. In a state of torpor, they spend the whole winter and only come to life with the first warmth.
Interesting fact: Ladybugs always spend the winter in one place, and then return exactly to the area from which they flew. Even young animals find their own way to winter.
What does a ladybug eat?
Ladybug — real predator among insects. Due to the structure of its jaw and the peculiarities of the functioning of the food tract, it is able to hunt other insects and then quickly digest them. There are varieties that choose plant food: plant pollen, mold, flowers and leaves.
The diet of predatory species includes mainly:
- aphids in huge quantities;
- spider mites;
- insect larvae;
- butterfly eggs;
- some do not disdain even Colorado beetle larvae .
Ladybugs eat a lot, they are always hungry, especially their larvae. Each individual can easily destroy more than a hundred aphid larvae per day. Having large eyes, insects use only their keen sense of smell in search of food.
The bugs do not hunt their victims, but only slowly, unhurriedly move through the foliage in search of food, and when they find a colony of aphids or laying eggs of insect pests, they linger for a long time in this place for a meal until they completely destroy it. That is why the ladybug is a welcome guest on any personal plot, agricultural fields with crops, in the garden. They are even specially bred at special enterprises and then, with the help of agricultural aviation, they are distributed over cultivated land. Unfortunately, some varieties of these bugs, mainly living in Asia, cause damage to crops.
Now you know what ladybugs eat. Let's see how to breed these beautiful insects.
Character and lifestyle features
All varieties of ladybugs choose a separate way of life and form groups only for flying to warmer climes or wintering in a secluded place. These huge groups can number up to 40 million individuals. You can also notice clusters of bugs during their mating season. All these bugs do not disdain to feast on the larvae of their relatives, but only in the absence of a sufficient amount of aphids and other food. But there are varieties of ladybugs that purposefully destroy their fellows.
An interesting fact: The yellow marbled ladybug was specially bred as an effective biological weapon against agricultural pests, but it was because of it that some varieties of these bugs were under the threat of complete extermination, since the marbled ladybug destroyed them in huge quantities along with other pests. .
These insects are active all day, they slowly crawl from one plant to another in search of food. With enough food, the lifespan of some individuals can reach two years or even more, but this happens extremely rarely. The main part dies much earlier, before reaching a year, and there are a lot of reasons for this: from lack of nutrition to environmental pollution.
Social structure and reproduction
All ladybugs are solitary. Only during the mating season, males search for a female for mating by a specific smell. This usually happens in early spring, and soon the female lays up to 400 eggs on the lower surface of the leaves. They have an oval shape, can be yellow, orange. The female chooses a place for laying closer to the aphid colony so that the offspring are supplied with food. This is the only manifestation of concern for their offspring. Most often, after that, she herself dies.
After a couple of weeks, the larvae appear. Their body is covered with hairs and has a variegated color, the pattern combines yellow and brown spots. In the first days, the larvae eat the remaining egg shell and unfertilized eggs, then go in search of aphids. The stage lasts from 4 to 7 weeks, after which the pupa is formed, which then attaches to the edge of the leaf, where its further transformation takes place.
At its end, after 8-10 days, the skin peels off the pupa with a stocking to the end of the abdomen. A full-fledged individual of a ladybug appears, which gradually acquires the usual bright color. At first, its elytra is pale in color, by this sign it is easy to distinguish an adult from a young. Young bugs are ready for procreation by 3 months of life, some only by half a year – it all depends on the quality of nutrition of environmental conditions.
Natural enemies of ladybugs
There are not so many enemies in the wild due to the specific white poisonous secret that she secretes. If a bird even once tastes a bright bug, then its bitter taste will discourage her from hunting for it for the rest of her bird's life. Many insects quickly die from ladybug hemolymph.
The main enemy of ladybugs is the dinocampus, a small winged insect that kills adult ladybugs and even its larvae by laying their eggs inside their bodies. As they develop, they feed on the body of their victim, and then the empty shell is simply torn apart, as in some famous horror films. Dinocampus locates bugs by their protective scent, which they use to scare away their other enemies. Parasites are able to significantly reduce the number of ladybugs in a short period.
The active use of various chemistry for processing fields, the general deplorable state of the environment also has a strong influence on the decrease in the population of these bright bugs. There is a trend in some countries to replace chemicals with natural, environmentally friendly pest control. Ladybugs are bred in huge numbers, they are even a national export.
Population and species status
The ladybug population has been significantly reduced due to active control of aphids. These little bugs simply have nothing to eat. Due to rapid reproduction, a small number of natural enemies, the population is able to recover in a short period of time if food is available. The status of the species is currently stable. At present, only a few rare varieties of these bugs, such as the blue Australian and pointless bugs, are under the threat of complete extinction.
Interesting fact: In search of food, a hungry ladybug larva can travel up to 12 meters , which is a huge distance for insects.
Trying to restore the population of useful bugs artificially, a person sometimes, even with his good intentions, on the contrary, causes significant damage to it. In recent years, millions of specially bred ladybugs have been released into the natural habitat, which, due to obvious mutations, have changed the nature of their diet and have chosen their own relatives as victims. All this caused the death of a huge number of useful bugs in all European countries. A thoughtful approach is needed to this problem without undue interference in the natural course of processes in nature.
Ladybug has long been listed in the Red Book of many countries, including Russia. Its complete disappearance threatens to disrupt the balance in nature and the active reproduction of pests, which then have to be destroyed by chemistry, and this, in turn, will further destroy the balance – a vicious circle is obtained.
An interesting fact: Until the forties of the 19th century in many European countries, the United States of America, special workers tracked the wintering places of ladybugs every autumn and collected insects in bags in winter, and then released them into gardens and fields in the spring. This environmentally friendly method of killing insect pests has been superseded by the active use of chemical aphids.
It is likely that soon people will completely abandon the use of chemicals and turn to ladybugs, who from time immemorial lived next to man and helped him in the struggle for the harvest. It is not for nothing that since ancient times people have praised and worshiped this tiny bug.
Today, the ladybug is successfully bred in artificial conditions. Then they are sent to the fields, but, according to many experts, it is enough just to create favorable conditions for these bugs and their population will recover on its own without human help and will be kept at the level necessary for nature. It is necessary to maintain a balance, and for this, first of all, it is necessary to abandon the use of chemicals for the treatment of crops from aphids, as well as direct our efforts to reduce the overall level of environmental pollution.