To the insects of the world, a flower is a banquet table … a hunting ground … a mating site … a place of refuge.
Providing a feast for these nectar seekers, most flowers have formed an interdependence between themselves and insects, exchanging food and shelter for pollination.
A familiar example is the early morning sight of a sleepy insect crawling out of its satiny floral sleeping bag, after spending the night safely enclosed by soft warm petals. Following a last-minute, morning nectar stop, a new day begins and the insect sets out again, seeking yet another draft of nectar.
The exciting and complex insect realm pulsates about the blooms of forested hills and grassy meadows everywhere.
One such creature is the delightful little Ladybug.
Known as a Ladybug in North America and a Ladybird in Britain, these delightful and much-loved critters are also known as Lady Beetles or Ladybird Beetles. They come in many different colors and patterns, but the most familiar in North America is the seven-spotted ladybug, with its shiny, red-and-black body. In many cultures, ladybugs are considered good luck.
Ladybugs are happy in many different habitats, including grasslands, forests, cities, suburbs, and along rivers. Seven-spotted ladybugs are native to Europe but were brought to North America in the mid-1900s to control aphid populations. Ladybugs are most active from spring until fall. When the weather turns cold, they look for a warm, secluded place to hibernate, such as in rotting logs, under rocks, or even inside houses. These hibernating colonies can contain thousands of ladybugs.
The name “ladybug” was coined by European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests began eating their crops. After ladybugs came and wiped out the invading insects, the farmers named them “beetle of Our Lady.” This eventually was shortened to “lady beetle” and “ladybug.” NASA even sent a few ladybugs into space with aphids to see how aphids would escape in zero gravity.
In the 1880s, California Citrus Growers were forced to put the Ladybug’s legendary appetite to a crucial test: A destructive scale insect (imported from Australia) was killing large groves of lemon and orange trees. The orchard owners released thousands of Australian Ladybugs with the hopes that they would gain the upper hand. Within two years (and $1,500 worth of Ladybugs) the scale insect infestation was conquered and the trees began to bear fruit again.
The Ladybugs had singlehandedly saved an entire industry (worth half a billion dollars today).
Since then, numerous species of Ladybugs have been “employed” around the world to help control and conquer outbreaks of crop-destroying pests. The Hippodamia Convergens (so-named due to the 2 converging white dashes on the black thorax portion of the beetle’s body, just above the wing cases) is undoubtedly the “aphid-eating champ” of all the Ladybug species. For this reason, many orchard owners, plant nurseries, and farmers have used them for pest control since 1910. During certain months of the year, you can even purchase containers of these Ladybugs at your local garden centers (or online) for use in your own backyard. Of course, not all of them will stick close to home, but the ones that do will vigilantly remain on patrol for pests, and they take no prisoners!