Out of all the insects, the cute little ladybug is our favourite at Mirage Landscaping. And we imagine we are not alone. Easily recognizable by their vivid red, orange, or yellow backs spotted through with characteristic black dots, ladybugs are also known as lady beetles or lady birds.
Their bold markings are actually defensive, telling predators to move on, they are not to be eaten. When they are threatened, ladybugs will secrete an oily, foul-tasting fluid from joints in their legs, making them taste just plain terrible. They are also known to play dead when in danger.
Out of the 5,000 different species of ladybug in the world, 11 live in Alberta. Their size, colour, and the number of dots they have helpfully determines what kind they are. The two most common types of ladybug, also known as Coccinellidae, found in Alberta are the introduced seven-spot ladybug and the native two-spot ladybug. Not surprisingly, the seven-spot ladybug is distinguishable by always having seven spots, with one located at the top of its back and centred between its wings. The seven-spot is the one we most often see when we are out performing our landscape maintenance and construction duties.
The lesser-known two-spot ladybug has been here in Alberta much longer than we have. Unlike the seven-spot ladybug, the two-spot’s name is slightly misleading. The two-spot ladybug can come with two large black spots, four small black spots, or even four black bands, all on a red background.
Although they are charming, ladybugs are also natural-born killers. The seven-spot ladybug was brought to North America from its native Europe in the mid-1900s to control aphid populations and they have played a major role in keeping crops and plants healthy ever since. In addition to aphids, which are their undisputed favourite meal, ladybugs eat a large variety of problem bugs, such as chinch bugs, asparagus beetle larvae, alfalfa weevils, bean thrips, grape rootworm, Colorado potato beetles larvae, spider mites, whiteflies, and mealybugs.
Not only that, ladybugs are completely passive and never bite, making them even more loveable.
How ladybugs help save plants and crops
Just like most other insects, ladybugs have four life stages. They lay eggs that hatch into larvae and then change into pupae. Then, it’s the adult stage, after which the circle starts again.
Eggs are laid in clusters or rows on the underside of a leaf, with one female ladybug capable of laying up to 1,000 eggs over a three-month period.
When it comes to getting rid of the problem bugs from crops and plants, the larvae do a lot of the dirty work. They grow quickly, shedding their skin several times, and all that growth makes them awfully hungry. Ravenous, they are the ones most likely to chomp down on the unwanted pests in your garden.
If you spot ladybug larvae, it’s best to leave them. They are often strikingly coloured in bright blue, orange, yellow and red striations, and their elongated, spiny body leads to them being described as “tiny alligators.”
When larvae reaches full size, they attach to a leaf by their tail to form a pupa. Within a week or two, the pupa becomes an adult ladybug. Ladybugs hibernate during the winter, often in large numbers, inside rotting logs, nestled among fallen leaves, under rocks, sometimes even in houses. That’s why it’s good to delay a spring cleanup until it has been consistently above 10 degrees Celsius during the day for at least seven days so as not to disturb their habitat.
In a healthy environment and under good conditions, ladybugs can live up to two or three years.
More fun facts about ladybugs
- Ladybugs feed on stored fat during hibernation.
- One ladybug can eat up to 5,000 insects in its lifetime.
- The spots on ladybugs fade as they get older.
- A ladybug’s jaw works from side to side, not up and down.
- Ladybugs beat their wings 85 times a second when flying.
- A ladybug’s main predators are birds, but they also have to watch out for wasps, spiders, and dragonflies.
- The twenty-spotted lady beetle is one of the smallest found in Alberta.
- Eye-spotted ladybugs have white rings around their black spots and are also found in Alberta.
- The three-banded ladybug is one of the rarest in the province.
- The Asian ladybeetle is identifiable by a white head with a marking that looks like a “W” or an “M.” An introduced species, it is not a true ladybug and can be invasive in homes during the winter.
- NASA once sent ladybugs into space with aphids to see if aphids could escape in zero gravity. The ladybugs won the battle.
Yes, you can introduce ladybugs to your property
Garden centres throughout Calgary sell live ladybugs that can be released in your garden. Ladybugs can also be bought online. Before bringing them home, make sure to make your property hospitable by watering your plants and sprinkling your leaves so they can rehydrate quickly. Try to release them a few at a time on different plants – especially those with aphids – and do it during the cooler hours of the morning or evening.
Let us care for your trees and yard
With three generations of experience landscaping in Calgary, we know what to watch for to keep your property in tip-top shape to be enjoyed for many years. Mirage Landscaping operates as a full-service residential and commercial landscape maintenance and construction company specializing in serving southeast Calgary districts and communities including:
Auburn Bay, Chaparral, Chaparral Valley, Copperfield, Cranston, Douglasdale, Heritage Pointe, Lake Bonavista, Mahogany, McKenzie Lake, Mackenzie Towne, Maple Ridge, New Brighton, Odgen/Lynwood/Millican, Parkland, Riverbend, Sundance, Walden, and Willow Park.
Contact Mirage for a fast, free project quote to make your yard dreams come true.