- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Spotted: A lady beetle (aka ladybug) feasting on aphids in her winter wonderland.
It dines uninterrupted until it sees the shadow of what could be a predator.
Swoosh! It quickly slips beneath a strawberry leaf and remains there, hidden and silent until the photographer leaves.
Did you know there are some 250 species of lady beetles in California alone? Check out the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) website that includes text and images of several of the species, including the California lady beetle, twospotted lady beetle, sevenspotted lady beetle, ninespotted lady beetle and the twenty-spotted lady beetle. Worldwide, there are some 5,000 different species of lady beetles, according to National Geographic.
Not all lady beetles have spots and not all lady beetles are red, as they point out.
Frédérique Lavoipierre, author of the newly published book, Garden Allies: The Insects, Birds and Other Animals That Keep Your Garden Beautiful and Thriving, devotes a chapter on beetles: "Meet the Beetles" and another chapter on "The Voracious Lady Beetles."
Lavoipierre mentions that more than one fifth of all the living species on earth are beetles and that "Beetles (order Coleoptera) share two definitive features. "They have hardened or leathery forewings (eltrya) with membranous flight wings tucked under this protective cover...Secondly, beetles have chewing mouthparts."
"There are those who don't really like insects, but it's hard to find anyone who doesn't have a soft spot for lady beetles (family Coccinellidae)," she writes. "Ladybugs, as they are more familiarly called, appear in legends, songs and children's stories and are a popular decorative motif."
Lavoipierre goes on to explain how beetles and other garden allies play a role in the ecosystem. This informative and educational book definitely "needs a spot" on your bookshelf!
Lady beetles also make arts and crafts fun. if there's a kid in your family who is looking for an art project, access this site at https://gosciencegirls.com/ladybird-paper-plate-craft/. Kids (and adults, too!) can make a 3D lady beetle using a white paper plate, black craft paper, pipe cleaners for legs and antennae, googly eyes, and of course, red, white and black acrylic paint.
Just add aphids.