Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image A ladybug wanders on Churchwood Road.

April 3, 2014
Ladybugs protect plants from damaging aphids

Available throughout the world and having more than 5,000 different species, “ladybug,” also referred to as “lady beetle,” “ladybird beetle,” or “cow bug,” pertain to the order of Coleoptera and is scientifically known as “sheath winged.” Ladybugs belong to the family of Coccinellidae, meaning “little red sphere.” Ladybugs are seen in a variety of colors and markings, including black, brown, orange, pink, yellow, red, with back patterns of stripes, spots, swirls, or nothing at all.

In the farming world, ladybugs are extremely helpful in controlling the aphid population. For us in the city, we may not recognize just how important they are for devouring these harmful pests.

For example, aphid infested plants are suckled of their juices and saps, which causes browning, mottling, lack of growth, curling of the leaves or death to the plant. Interestingly, it is not so much the robbing of the plant’s fluids that is the problem, it is the aphid’s abandoned diseases left inside the pierced plant. This occurs in flowers, ornamentals, shade trees, vegetables and fruit plants. Another interesting fact, because of their frequent disasters by aphids, ladybug species are actually reared and then sold over the Internet so they can be intentionally released into gardens, farmyards and orchards.

In 1999, a couple of ladybugs and aphids were taken into space by a NASA space shuttle so they could determine whether aphids can escape from being eaten in a zero gravity environment. Unfortunately, for aphids, ladybugs can still devour them, even in space.

The most common and effective ladybug against the aphid available for purchase online is the “hippodamia convergens” species. Both adults and larvae ladybugs eat aphids. A single ladybug can eat up to 5,000 aphids in its lifetime.

The markings on a ladybug’s back warn predators that they are not appealing to eat. If ignored, ladybugs emit a fluid from their legs that is foul tasting.

 

Addie T. Lindsay is 17 years old. She is an accomplished writer and photographer of wildlife creatures, big and small. She can be reached at CritterChatter@Live.com.

 

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