As we head into spring here on Figueroa Mountain, one beetle that is very popular is the ladybug. In the winter we have always had them in big numbers by the creek off Davy Brown Trail, at the headwaters along Bierbent Creek, and in the canyon behind our corrals.
The word ladybug is a slang term for the more correct name, ladybird beetle or ladybeetle. The ladybeetle can be found in nursery rhymes and folklore around the world. Call them cute and handle them until they bite; yes folks, they do bite but their bite is not harmful to humans.
Ladybugs or ladybeetles come together in large groups to diapause (which is the equivalent of hibernation). They fly to the higher elevations to conserve their resources and also to bring males and females together to reproduce. Usually they are found in the shade along the creeks, on logs, in leaf littler, on dead branches, on small live plants and in the grass. When they break out of diapauses, at or above 55 degrees F, you see them seeking the sun or flying off looking for food and a place to lay their eggs.
After being laid as tiny, golden eggs on the undersides of leaves near an aphid colony, the eggs hatch into larvae looking like caterpillars in just a few days. The first one to hatch will eat the remaining eggs to eliminate competition for the food source. These larvae can eat up to 350 to 400 aphids in the two weeks it takes them to become fully grown. Just like a butterfly, the larvae will enter the pupa stage, hang upside down on the underside of a leaf for 5 to 7 days, and then emerge as a ladybeetle.
The adult ladybeetle can eat up to 75 aphids a day and lives until she produces eggs, just like the Monarch butterfly. You may see ladybugs in your shrubs and plants looking for aphids. Remember to be as kind to them as these little predators are kind to your plants.