People often say that if a ladybug lands on someone, it's good luck. They're loved by gardeners, and in fact, ladybugs are often called a "gardener's best friend." That's because they like to eat aphids and other insects with soft bodies, which can eat away at a beautiful garden. Ladybugs are predators who are quick to scare away or camouflage themselves against other predators. Even though there are about 5,000 species of ladybugs, they are far from invincible.
Birds and other vertebrates don't like to eat ladybugs. That's because ladybugs are red with black spots. Those are two of nature's warning signs that something is either dangerous or not good to eat. Although a ladybug's spots fade as it gets older, their hard shells protect them. However, they're not entirely safe all the time. Assassin bugs, stink bugs, spiders and toads like to eat ladybugs.
Besides using their color and spots to scare predators away, ladybugs also like to play dead. If they're in danger, they curl up their legs. They also will ooze out a little bit of blood. It doesn't hurt them, but their yellow-colored blood stinks. Would-be predators may decide they don't want a dead ladybug; plus, they don't want to eat something so stinky.
Little but Mighty
Ladybugs aren't actually bugs at all. They're beetles, and their entire lives last just a little over a year. Yet they lay as many as 1,000 eggs during that time. Ladybugs can actually become pests because some kinds like to eat plants. However, most are helpful to gardeners. Researchers say that ladybugs got their name back in the Middle Ages in Europe. Swarms of aphids were ruining crops. People prayed to the Virgin Mary, and when small beetles came and began eating the aphids, people called them, "Our Lady's Beetles" or the "Beetles of Our Lady."
Attacking Each Other
Ladybugs aren't saints, though. Scientists have found that the Asian lady beetle, which is a type of ladybug, is quite aggressive. In England, the Asian lady beetle has spread quickly and will eat fellow ladybugs that are native to England. However, there is a type of wasp that lays eggs in the native ladybugs. When the larva hatch, they actually eat the ladybug for food. That has scientists wondering whether the wasp will only lay eggs in England's native ladybugs or whether they'll also lay eggs in the Asian ladybugs.
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