Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Little Girls and Ladybugs

I have always thought ladybugs were neat!  I have watched them and enjoyed them every since I was a little girl.  Next to butterflies, they are my favorite bugs.

Not so for my granddaughter Ashlyn.  She went through a period where she absolutely loathed the little critters.  It might have had something to do with the fact her Mommy didn't like them.  This was due to the fact that they actually had a "ladybug invasion" in a house they were renting.  I had never heard of this before, but apparently it is quite common here in the South.

Anyway, I found myself amazed the other day when we were at the swimming pool and Ashlyn came to the side of the pool and carefully placed a little orange ladybug on the side of the concrete edge.  She had actually rescued it from the chlorinated water and released it.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Oh, it's not that she isn't the most tenderhearted child ever, but she really used to HATE ladybugs.  In fact, one time when her grandpa and I had taken her for an ice cream cone, we were waiting outside the walk-up window when a ladybug landed in front of us on the sidewalk.  She took one look at it, and promptly STOMPED it to death!  Then she turned around and said with great emotion, "fly now!"  My husband and I stood there and stared at each other.  We didn't know what to say!  The sweetheart had stomped it to death and then dared it to fly! We couldn't help but laugh and I still smile every time I think of it.

I guess she must have finally realized that those little ladybugs eat those pesky aphids which love my roses and my river birch!  I think she has probably become a little more ecologically conscious now that she is in school.  In fact her lower school play a couple of weeks ago was all about "bugs."  Cute and informative too! 

Here are a few things you may or may not know about ladybugs:

1. What do ladybugs eat?
A. Ladybugs eat Aphids. Aphids are soft bodied insects that suck the juices out of plants. If you have roses in your garden, you have seen aphids. Aphids also come in a variety of colors and not all ladybugs like all the "flavors" of aphids. Ladybugs will also feed on scale insects and plant mites.
2. Are ladybugs poisonous?
A. No. Ladybugs are not poisonous to humans. However, they can have toxic effects on some animals. Ladybugs have a foul odor which deters some predators from eating them and their bright colors also help as a deterrent. In nature, red and orange, are warning colors that indicate to another animal or insect that the potential "lunch item" might not be a good choice.
3. Ladybug Infestation! LadyBugs are In my HOUSE! Why?
A. They have probably been hibernating under the sliding of the house or apartment and the warmer temperatures have caused them to emerge- it's just that they are going in the wrong direction.  You would think that they would be trying to get out of the house, but they are coming in. It happens. This happens because of the variation in temperatures from the interior of the home verses the outside temperatures. The ladybugs are merely confused. Visit the Ladybug Infestation page for more details.
4. Why do ladybugs come into my house in the winter time?
A. Ladybugs are attracted to the light colored houses. Especially, homes that have a clear southwestern sun exposure. Older homes tend to experience more problem with aggregations due to lack of adequate insulation. The ladybugs come in through small cracks around windows, door ways and under clap boards. They want to hibernate in a warm, comfortable spot over the cold months of winter. Ladybugs gather in groups when they hibernate, so if you see one, you can be sure more will follow. The best way to keep them out is to repair damaged clap boards, window and door trim and to caulk small cracks.
5. Once the ladybugs are in my house, will they eat anything?
A. No. Ladybugs don't eat fabric, plants, paper or any other household items. They like to eat APHIDS. Aphids are very small, but very destructive pest that feed on plants. (If you have rose bushes, you have probably seen aphids.) Ladybugs, while trying to hibernate in your house, live off of their own body fats. They, also, prefer a little humidity. But our homes are usually not very humid during the winter. In fact, they are rather dry causing most of your ladybug guests to die from dehydration. Occasionally, you might witness a ladybug in your bathroom getting a drink of water. Now, that's a smart lady!
6. How can I get them out of my house?
A. If you don't have a lot, just leave them. They will leave when spring arrives. Disturbing them will only cause them to stress out leaving yellow markings on your walls. The yellow stuff, you see, is not waste matter, but rather, their blood. Ladybugs release a small amount of their blood which is yellow and smells, when they sense danger. Some people have said that it does stain on light colored surfaces.
7. But, I really want the ladybugs out of my house!
A. Use a "shop vacuum". This type of vacuum is easy to use for collect ladybugs. When using this to vacuum up ladybugs, use a clean bag or pad the bottom with a cloth. After all is clean, release the unwelcome guests outside.
8. Is there anything else I can use to get the ladybugs out of my house?
A. Yes. There is a product called a Ladybug Black Light Trap. It uses radiating black light to attract and contain the ladybugs.
9. I have to write a science report on ladybugs. Can you give me more information about their life? 
A. You have come to the right place! There is tons of information here at the www.ladybuglady.com web site. Let me show you where to go. First start here; you are on the Questions and Answers page. There is information about the spots, the predators, the things they eat and why the the Asian Ladybug comes into people's houses. Next, you can go to the Science Fair Information page. This page has all the Scientific information about a ladybug called Hippodamia convergens. There is info about their wings, antennae, legs, reproduction and more. This particular ladybug is native to all of North America and parts of South America. Next, if you want to see pictures of ladybugs, well, they are all over the website! But you will find most of them here on the Pictures of Ladybugs and Larva page. If you need pictures of what the ladybug likes to eat, go to Garden Eaters. Remember, you can always click on the BACK button at the top of your screen to come back to this page after looking at one of the other pages. Thanks for coming to www.ladybuglady.com Your report is going to turn out great! Good Luck.

10. We found ladybug eggs at our house. They hatched! What can we expect to see and how can we care for them, so that we can watch the life cycle? 
A. Wow! This is a very exciting time at your house!!!! Depending on the species, and the temperatures, the ladybug larva can hatch out of the egg in 4-10 days. When the larva hatch out, they are so incredibly small, you will not want to move them or touch them. Depending on the species again, the first food of the larva is to eat the egg case that they just hatched out from.
After that anything is fair game, including the other larval siblings. You may also notice that the egg cases if left have turned white and dried out. After two days, bring aphids to the larva in the bug box, the smallest aphids possible. And often. Don't add water quite yet. The larva could drown if over sprayed. They will get enough moisture from the aphids. After about four days, you will probably begin noticing the changing. They are growing and shedding the first of several skins. This process is called "in-star". Because insects have an exoskeleton (outside skeleton), when the larva grow, they have to basically bust out of the exoskeleton to get bigger. The soft exoskeleton that is revealed dries and hardens, protecting the larva once more until it has grown too big on the inside once more. This happens about 5-7 times in the larval stage, depending on the species and the amount of food available. After about 10-14 days, the larva will affix itself the a stable structure to begin the metamorphosis, the process by which the larva of an insect completely transforms in appearance into the adult form of the species. This process can take 7-14 days depending on temperature, type of species, the amount of food eaten during the larval stage and humidity. In other words, a lot of varying factors. When the adult ladybug emerges from the pupa, it is in a very vulnerable state. The ladybug's body is very soft and wet as the new exoskeleton still must dry and harden. The colors and spots look dull, but once it is dry the colors are bright and the ladybug will present the world with its new life. You can even watch the entire life cycle with a ladybug Rearing kit where you get to watch the baby ladybug larvae grow and turn into adult ladybugs.
11. Do ladybugs build their own home?
A. No. Ladybugs reside where insect pest populations are high. Such as in crop fields, gardens, and in the canopies of trees.
12. How do ladybugs protect themselves?
A. Nature has uniquely designed a warning system of colors. Red, yellow and black are colors that warn predators that the insect they are about to eat might not be a good lunch choice. The colors can warn of danger such as poisonous, bad taste, or the ability to defend itself against the predators. Colors can also camouflage and warn when there is nothing about the insect that is harmful. Ladybugs can also protect themselves by playing dead. By pulling their legs up "turtle-style", and typically release a small amount of blood from their legs. (This is called reflex bleeding.) The bad smell and the apparent look of death usually deter predators from their small ladybug snack. After the threat of danger has passed, the ladybug will resume its normal activities.

Well now don't you feel well informed?  Those sweet little ladybugs are just part of the ecologically wonderful world we live in and we should take care to appreciate them!

God Bless!  Peace, Love and Joy

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