People love this helpful, pretty, little beetle
Thursday, April 01, 2010
Media contact: Jessica Basham
People love to see ladybugs. They are pretty and
shiny with tiny, black dots on their little, red bodies. Ladybugs
are also orange, yellow and pink. A ladybug, however, is not
a true bug but a member of the beetle family.
Many cultures think ladybugs bring good luck. Long
ago, tiny aphids (plant-eating bugs) attacked farmers' crops. The
farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. Ladybugs, they said,
arrived and ate up the aphids, saving the crops. So farmers called
them "Our Lady's Beetles," and they became known as "lady
beetles." Now we call them ladybugs, even though some of them
are boys. There are more than 400 species of ladybugs in the
United States and nearly 5,000 worldwide.
A ladybug's color helps protect it from
predators. Red, yellow, orange and black are all colors that
warn enemies they are about to eat something that will make them
sick or tastes yucky.
A ladybug also protects itself by playing dead. If
grabbed or touched, the ladybug will squirt out a small amount of
blood from its leg joints. This blood smells really bad. Because
the beetle looks and smells dead, a hungry bird will skip this
snack. When the danger has passed, the ladybug may fly
Its little body is really a hard shell that covers
its wings. When it wants to fly, it lifts up the two sides of
its shell and beats its wings. It can beat its wings up to 85
times per second.
Ladybugs and their larvae (young ladybugs) love to
munch on aphids. Ladybug larvae look like tiny alligators and are
black and orange or black and pink.
Ladybugs can eat up to 50 aphids a day. Eating so
many not only fills them up but protects farm crops and gardens
from aphids and other bugs. Aphids suck the juice out of leaves and
cause them to curl up and die.
When you go searching for a ladybug, look in places
where aphids might hang out, such as milkweed plants, rose bushes,
farm fields and orchards. Go outside and look on the top and bottom
of leaves. Are some leaves curled up and dead-looking, or covered
with a blackish mold? Look closely; you may see aphids, which
means a ladybug might be nearby.
Be part of the healthy Get Outdoors Florida!
movement by getting outdoors and helping scientists find ladybugs.
All you need is a camera. In an effort to study and track ladybugs,
Cornell University's Lost Ladybug Project wants to know where
ladybugs live. If you see a ladybug, take its picture, showing its
top. If you can, get it to crawl on a piece of white paper, so its
spots and colors show up better in the photo. Then write down
where and when you saw the ladybug. Next, you or your parents can
visit www.lostladybug.org to fill out more
information and e-mail the picture to the Lost Ladybug Project.