Call them ladybugs, call them ladybirds, call them lady beetles, call them Coccinellidae, or just call them aphid eaters or deluxe aphid eaters.
And while you're at Briggs Hall, check out the insect-related displays and activities planned and coordinated by entomology doctoral candidate Danielle Rutkowski of the UC Davis Graduate Student Association. The events range from Roach Races (cheer on your favorite roach) to Maggot Art (dip a maggot in non-toxic, water-based paint and create a masterpiece worthy of framing--or at least, it can join your refrigerator art).
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.
Everything in your garden has a place, and your place should be a healthy, thriving garden--free of pesticides, says Frédérique Lavoipierre.
Lavoipierre, author of the newly published book, Garden Allies: The Insects, Birds and Other Animals That Keep Your Garden Beautiful and Thriving, writes in the introduction: "Of course, we know the pollinators are our allies, but what about all those other insects? I have a few tips, but first, I generally don't think of bugs as good or bad. Indeed, I have learned to think of them in their ecological roles, as prey and predators, pollinators, decomposers and so on."
Everything in nature is connected, she recently told Pacific Coast Entomological Society (PCES) in a Zoom meeting. She quoted John Muir: "When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world."
Basically, if you rid your garden of insects, what will the birds eat? If you rid your garden of aphids, no lady beetles or soldier beetles for you! If you rid your garden of caterpillars, no more butterflies fluttering around for you to admire and photograph. Everything in nature is connected.
Lavoipierre's engaging and educational book, published by Timber Press and illustrated with intricate pen-and-ink drawings by Craig Latker, should be required reading for those interested in planting a pollinator garden or those who want to learn more about the critters--"above, under, around and within"--that visit or live there.
"So I grew up with a dad who loved all things entomological," Frédérique said. Her father's last graduate student was Bob Kimsey, now a longtime forensic entomologist on the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology faculty.
Frédérique went on to study at Sonoma State University; obtain her master's degree in biology, with an emphasis on ecological principles of sustainable landscapes; become the founding director of the Sonoma State University Sustainable Landscape Professional Certificate Program; and serve as the director of education at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden.
Today she is a consultant and serves on the editorial advisory group for the American Public Gardens Association.
And today, as the author of Garden Allies and a staunch supporter of healthy, thriving gardens--"gardens matter"--she's eager to spread the word about her love of gardens; why you should love them, too; and why you should appreciate the organisms that live "above, under, around and within." She recently set up a Facebook site at https://www.facebook.com/Garden.Allies to interact with her readers and garden enthusiasts.
"I wrote Garden Allies as a series for Pacific Horticulture Magazine for ten years," Lavoipierre' recalled. "It's been a terrific COVID project!"
Her husband titled the book. In her introduction, she writes: "Long ago when I first began writing about natural enemies of herbivorous insects, my husband said to me, 'Why don't you call them garden allies instead?'"
"My book is written for readers throughout North America, north of Mexico and is based on conservation biological control," she told PCES.
"I'm a big fan of native plants," Lavoipierre acknowledged. "They support the habitat more. I'm not a purist; I'm a gardener...If you like to grow hydrangeas in in your garden that remind you of your grandmother, you should."
In her talk, she showed images of bees, beetles, butterflies, bats, syrphid flies, dragonflies, lacewings, spiders, praying mantids, birds, earthworms, centipedes, millipedes, and more. "Everything is food for something else."
"And it all starts with the soil. It all begins there, with the soil...You'll have a rich environment if you have healthy soil." In discussing earthworms aerating the soil and what a rototiller can do to disrupt life, she added: "I'm an advocate of no tilling."
Lavoipierre said she visits public gardens at every opportunity. "I look at the flowers, what's visiting them, what's eating what..."
Her tips include: remove your lawn and plant a pollinator garden; plant natives as much as possible; don't use pesticides; install a bat box; join INaturalist; become a citizen scientist and participate in groups such as Bumble Bee Watch; and turn off the lights at night ("it's bad for a lot of insects--check out darksky.org").
And just enjoy your garden, she told PCES. "You don't have to know what everything is to live with it."
Her takeaway message, given to Bug Squad: "Gardens, large and small, make a difference. Reducing (or even eliminating!) pesticides protects us all--the bees and other pollinators, but also other essential organisms such as predators, parasitoids, and pathogens that attack herbivorous insects and keep them in check; and decomposers and soil organisms that keep our gardens thriving. And yes, herbivorous insects are essential--important food for birds and many other animals. Healthy garden food webs keep our watersheds and larger environment safe from pollution."
Step right up, folks!
I'm a lady beetle, aka ladybug, and it's lunch time.
Or maybe it's snack time, I don't know. I don't talk when my mouth is full.
What I do know is this: aphids are tasty and they line up to be eaten. Or sometimes it appears that way!
Lady beetles, the good guys and gals in the garden, are natural enemies of aphids and other soft-bodied insects. Scientists say a lady beetle may eat as many as 5000 aphids in its lifetime.
The red coloration serves as a warning that “I don't taste good.” When attacked, they ooze a substance that further emphasizes that.
Even the larvae of these beetles eat aphids. Unfortunately, the alligator-like larvae are mistaken for pests and many an novice gardener has killed them.
"They are ferocious predators of small insects," says Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and a UC Davis distinguished professor of entomology. In her information sheet on lady beetles, she mentions that "adults will also feed on pollen and nectar when their prey is scarce."
Factoid: "Lady beetles will occasionally bite humans. However, they apparently bite to collect salt rather than to defend themselves or to behave aggressively."
Kimsey includes five species of lady beetles, with photos, on her information sheet:
- Spotless lady beetle, Cycloneda sanguinea
- Asian lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis
- Seven-spot lady beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
- Two-spot lady beetle, Adalia bipunctata
- Convergent lady beetle, Hippodamia convergens
The five are "mostly distinguished by the extent of white markings on the prothorax and the number of black
spots on the wing covers (elytra)," Kimsey says.
All hail the lady beetles!/span>/span>
Thoughtful of the moms, isn't it? Moms are like that.
Look on or under your rosebush leaves. Look under your milkweed leaves. See the cluster of tiny yellow eggs? And if you look closely, you'll see those pesky aphids sucking the sap, the very lifeblood, out of the plant.
The lady beetle eggs hatch in about a week. The larvae look like little alligators (many a gardener has killed them, not knowing these are beneficial insects, not pests.) Larvae, too, devour aphids. As adults, lady beetles can polish off about 75 aphids a day.
Lady beetles hibernate during the winter, huddling under leaves, rocks or grasses. (See more about lady beetles on the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program website.)
But for now, you'll see them laying eggs--right where the food source is.
Thoughtful of the moms, isn't it? Moms are like that.