When you think of graceful insects, very few probably come to mind. The butterfly, the dragonfly perhaps, and of course, the ladybug. They are pretty, with their red bodies and black spots. They are loved by farmers, as they eat the destructive aphids that can ruin a crop.They are harmless to humans, unlike bees or certain species of ants. But despite these advantages in the insect world, the ladybug has more inelegant qualities than you might realize.
The Larval Stage
A ladybug can lay hundreds of eggs at a time.If you observed them upon hatching, you would notice that the larvae do not resemble the attractive adult ladybugs you’ve most likely seen in your own backyard. Their coloring is not red, but black and orange, and they actually resemble tiny alligators covered in tiny spikes.
The ladybug is also born with an exoskeleton, and as the larvae grow, they burst out of this old skin. Their new skin hardens, and protects the larvae until it grows again. Then the process repeats itself. Each ladybug sheds these skins up to seven timesbefore it reaches the adult stage. Though this is a necessary process in the life-cycle of a ladybug, it is not the most appealing quality, and one you probably would not like to think about when you are watching the pretty little insect make its way across your yard.
The ladybug lays its eggs in colonies of aphids, and when these strange-looking babies hatch, they begin to feed immediately. The first food they consume is their egg case, and then they move on to aphids, and sometimes their own recently hatched siblings. Each one of these tiny insects can consume as many as fifty aphids every day. Six weeks after birth, a ladybug will have eaten about 5,000 unfortunate aphids. Their voracious appetites have endeared them to farmers, but in no way cements their “graceful” title.Instead, it offers a much less delicate view of the attractive ladybug.
Ladybugs do not build their own homes or nests, and instead reside in crop fields, gardens, trees, and anywhere else plant-eating pests have made their homes. This is to ensure that their larvae will have a guaranteed food source when they hatch. Because of this nomadic lifestyle, the ladybug must find a new home for hibernation when the weather begins to cool. Sometimes, this new home will be yourhome. And because they hibernate in groups, when one finds a crack to squeeze through, you can be sure more will follow.
Initially this will not be an issue, as ladybugs can live off their own body fat in hibernation, and you may not even know they are there. But when the weather warms, they will try to find their way outside. If they get lost or confused, they will come into your house instead of leaving it. Then their survival instincts may kick in, and unless you know how to remove them from your home, you may find them doing some strange things, as demonstrated below.
Though you may think their distinctive red and black coloring is appealing, it is actually meant to deter predators. The ladybug will also play dead when threatened, and secrete a foul-tasting fluid from the joints in its legs. A predator will only try to eat one once. After the inevitable sickness the ingested ladybug causes, the predator will ignore them, eating more appetizing meals in the future.
This effective deterrent is used against humans as well. If you find one in your house, it is best to leave it be. If the ladybug becomes stressed, they leave a yellow mark, which is actually their blood, on whatever surface they happen to be on. This discoloration also has a rather unpleasant odor.
The ladybug prefers humid places, and can actually die of dehydration if it is trapped in your house. This is why are quite often found in bathrooms, drinking whatever water is available. This means your sink, and yes, even your toilet. Thirst does not discriminate, and neither does the ladybug.
The ladybug will always be one of the more attractive insects, usually harmless, and helpful to farmers and gardeners. But perhaps the word “graceful” is used a bit too loosely on this particular insect.