The ladybird beetles a.k.a. ladybugs were out visiting this week. It feels like spring here in Florida, so they are busy scouring the leaves and flowers of plants seeking nourishment. Both adult and larva, side by side, munching away on aphids, scale or other pests.
I’ve several different species around the yard and this week I met up with some our native Spotless Lady Beetles (Cycloneda sanguinea) and some Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles (Harmonia axyridis) who, as the name implies hail from Asia. Don’t be fooled or identify the ladybugs based on common name. Both species can be completely free of spots and the “spotless” one can have a few spots here or there. You need to take a good look at the head and pronotum markings.
My bladder broke recently. Now, before you rush to send the get well cards and Depend® coupons, let me explain that it was the one in the well water storage tank. I called the well guy and he replaced the tank in short order. While there, we popped open the cover on the water softener system to check the numbers on the broken clock since he believes it may be under warranty. “Wow, look at all the ladybugs”, he mentioned. I nodded, took a look and replied that they were non-native variety. The well guy agreed that you don’t see too many native species around any more.
Luckily, at my place I have a relatively secure population of our native ladybugs.
I also have a healthy population of the Asian variety which can be good or bad, depending on your conditions and outlook.
Their penchant for massive gathering can elevate them to pest status in some colder locales. They may over-winter and invade homes. Their defense mechanism is to ooze liquid when they perceive threats. The liquid emits a foul odor and can permanently stain walls, drapes, carpeting, etc. Best not to swat or crush these lady beetles. Better yet, make sure to properly caulk areas that they could use for entry so they don’t get in living quarters the first place.
I have not encountered home invasion by the ladybugs since my move to Florida and their choice this week of hunkering down amid the water softener system doesn’t really concern me. I just need to remember to pop the cover on a regular basis so they don’t gum up the works and short it out like some ants and treefrogs have done in the past.
I was happy to see some ladybug larvae on the plants and even happier by it’s markings. It was very tiny and the shape lends more toward it being in the native genus than the exotic one. The exotic beetles tend to be much larger although unless you see them side by side you might not notice it.
Take a good look at the lady beetle larva. Because of the odd look, some people think there are weird pests on their plants and unknowingly remove these beneficials. If they use a pesticide, well, then they have just done in the next generation of probably one of the better pest management control insects around.
There are many, MANY more species of ladybugs. Some may not be as friendly and compete with your local native varieties, so research which species belong in your area and try to encourage those native species when you can. The two species discussed here will help your beautiful wildlife garden by controlling aphids. Some species also control scale and other pests. Avoid pesticide use to encourage the natural predators that will make for a healthy, happy garden.
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