What Kind of Food Do Ladybugs Eat?

What Kind of Food Do Ladybugs Eat? thumbnail
Ladybugs can help keep your garden pest-free.

With their colorful markings, cheerful appearance and reputation for bringing good luck, ladybugs are garden favorites of both children and adults. The small beetles are common in the United States --Colorado alone has around 80 species -- and come in a variety of different colors, including red, yellow, black, orange and even pink. Although ladybugs are harmless to humans, for many members of the insect world they are dangerous predators.

  1. Food Sources

    • Adult ladybugs spend their days hunting for food. Their chewing mouthparts mean they are able to kill and eat many kinds of small insects and mites, including aphids, spider mites, scales and mealy bugs. They will also eat certain types of insect eggs, and some prey on small caterpillars. Some kinds of adult ladybugs supplement their carnivorous diet with plant-based material, such as pollen and nectar. The Mexican bean beetle feeds, as its name suggests, on beans and is the only ladybug to eat solely vegetarian food.

    Varieties

    • Different species of ladybug have slightly different tastes when it comes to food. Most common types of ladybug prefer aphids, but the much smaller Stethorus variety enjoys munching on spider mites. Some potato farmers in North America use the "Coleomegilla maculate," or pink spotted lady beetle, to rid their crops of the Colorado potato beetle. Both adults and larvae of this variety love to eat the potato beetles' eggs, while ladybug larvae will also consume potato beetle larvae. Whatever their preferences, ladybugs are hungry: an adult insect can eat up to 5,000 aphids in its lifetime!

    Life Cycle

    • Food is important to ladybugs at each stage of their life cycle. Juveniles hatch out of their eggs as larvae. At this stage they are completely carnivorous and move around looking for food. The larvae of some species have an appearance similar to that of mealy worms, enabling them to hunt more successfully. When the larvae has eaten enough, it creates a pupa that protects the insect while it develops into a mature ladybug.

    Ladybugs and Your Garden

    • You can take advantage of ladybugs' predatory instincts by encouraging them to visit your garden where they can keep insect pests in check. Ladybugs will be attracted to gardens that offer them a supply of pollen and nectar in addition to insect prey. Plant varieties of the compositae family, such as marigolds, daisies, calendula and asters, to encourage ladybugs to visit. By keeping the pest population low naturally, you'll reduce your need to use pesticides that are harmful to the environment.

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References

  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

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