Species Spotlight


Names & Nicknames: Ladybirds, Ladybugs, Lady beetles

Size: As their name suggests, Ladybirds are dainty – usually only between 1-10mm in length, or about as long as your lil' pinky nail.

Communication: Ladybirds are a species of few words. Instead, they prefer to speak through smell, using pheromones – chemicals released from the body – like we'd use language. These scents communicate all sorts of matters, like finding each other for the all-important group hibernation, or females dropping hints for potential mates... ahem.

Favourite Hangout: Every continent except Antarctica. From arid deserts to temperate gardens, these little legends aren't too fussy. The more commonly seen species are probably hanging out in a garden or park, anywhere that tasty aphids are flowing freely!

Favourite Snack: APHIDS. While not all ladybird species eat them, or even insects for that matter, many species can’t get enough of these little pests, eating up to 50 a day! Truly a gardener's best friend.

Eating Habits: Predatory aphid-eating ladybirds can track their favourite snack down by sniffing out honeydew – sugary aphid waste products mmmm – and even by sensing pheromones aphids release when they're scared. Once they've honed in on their dinner, ladybirds don't mess around, seizing the little snacks in their mandibles – insect jaws – and POOF, one less pest in the garden.

Toilet Humour: Ladybirds may seem sweet and innocent – they are named after an early painting of the Virgin Mary after all. The reality is these sensual souls are highly promiscuous, mating for several hours... with multiple partners. They love to snack while they... exercise... and have a very niche claim to fame: the first case of an insect STD.

Love Language: Shock, but male ladybirds are out here doing the most to try and woo their ladybae. Picture it: a slow approach, a series of sharp turns, and some attempted mounting. (Do anything for you?) It's said that virgin male ladybirds are much more likely to try these manoeuvres than more experienced males. Make of that what you will.

If you see them: Consider yourself lucky! In cultures all around the world, ladybirds are seen as a symbol of good fortune. Some think the redder the ladybird, the greater the luck, and others believe if they land on you, you get to make a wish or that you'll find true love soon! One thing is for sure, though, it's unlucky (and not very friendly) to kill a ladybird, so take good care of them if one does land on you.

Red Flags: These special critters face a number of threats, from climate change to habitat loss. A major red flag for many common ladybird species is the use of pesticides in gardens and farms. These are often used to kill pest insects like aphids. Unfortunately, where you find aphids, you find ladybirds, and these nasty chemicals end up killing any insect in its path. An alternative method to pest control is just staying clear of the pesticides, and letting the ladybirds do what they do best. They do a pretty good job too, as some species can eat over 5000 aphids in their lifetime!

Epic Journeys: When people think of migrations, most think of high-flying birds and wildebeest, but many insects, including ladybirds, migrate as well! Some species fly 120km in one day, sailing over 1000 metres high, to find better breeding, nesting, and snacking grounds. (You just can't fault their dedication to food.)

Glow-up: Ladybirds go through four stages in their lifecycle: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Whilst many people know what common species of adult ladybirds look like, and even that they're very good pest controllers for eating aphids, fewer people know that their larvae (whilst not as pretty) also love aphid buffets. In fact, in just a few short weeks as a larvae, some species can devour hundreds of aphids. So, if you're unsure what the wingless, dark-coloured, carrot-shaped grub with legs on your plant is, it's probably a ladybird larva and is helping out just as much as the adult ladybirds are.

Facts: Ladybirds don't just look dramatic; they act dramatic as well! To appear more unappetising to predators, some ladybirds will play dead, sometimes releasing smelly blood from their knees to really commit to the act. Nature's method actors.

Who are they in the friendship group: That beautiful thespian friend, who's hardworking, hungry, and obsessed with one type of food.

How threatened are they: Not assessed but many species are thought to be at risk

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