MadSci Network: Zoology

Re: What should I feed all the ladybugs coming out of hibernation?

Date: Wed Jan 26 11:22:47 2000
Posted By: Justin Roux, Engineering and Physiological Scientist.
Area of science: Zoology
ID: 948152740.Zo

Hello Sarah, how nice to hear from someone who wants to look after our six- legged friends instead of step on them or spray them with nasty things. Good for you, Sarah.

Firstly, you will have to forgive me for using the word Ladybird, where you use Ladybug, but that's what we call them in Britain. You must like ladybirds a lot, so I'm going to tell you a little bit about them as well as telling you what to feed them on.

Ladybirds belong to a order of insects called Coleoptera. The order Coleoptera is the beetles and it is the biggest single order of all living things. If Noah were to fill his Ark today, and took two of every animal, one quarter of all the passengers would be beetles - and that's without all the other insects too!

Ladybirds are brightly coloured beetles, from yellow to orange to red to black, and can have no spots, just two, or may even have more than twenty; making them easy to identify. They fly very well indeed, do not harm humans at all, and this makes them popular. The ladybird is the national beetle of Ohio, so I am told.

Another thing that makes them so popular with humans (especially farmers and gardeners) is their diet. In general they are carnivorous and eat at an amazing rate. They will eat the larvae of the Colorado beetle which is a huge agricultural pest, meal worms, and all sorts of other small, soft bodied, plant pests. Next time you are in a rose garden, take a good look around under the leaves - where there are greenfly there will be a hungry ladybird nearby. But that's not all, a few species will feed on fungi and leaf mold. If you find a yellow one with lots of black spots, try feeding it some rotten and furry fruit. Experiment with your new pets: try them with newly hatched spiders (be careful what you catch), greenfly, aphids, and fruit mold. You will soon see what they like best.

I am particularly happy that you are interested in ladybirds because they are in danger in this country. A few years ago a new species of wasp arrived that lays its eggs inside the ladybird's body and consequently kills it. Our population went down by 30 percent last year, and I hope that the same thing is not happening over in the United States. We have started a ladybird sanctuary in Scotland where we can breed them and set them free in large numbers to prevent the new wasps from killing them off completely. Thankfully, the wasps do not travel that far north.

When you find a ladybird, love it. It deserves it.
Take care,

Justin Roux.

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