Ladybug Love Fest on Top of the World

February 16, 2016

Valentine’s Day came early this year for these amorous Convergent ladybugs. Photo credit: Lila Higgins. Last weekend on a hike to Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the Santa Monica mountains, fellow bug enthusiast Lila Higgins came across a brazen beetle Bacchanalia in full midday swing. Hundreds of ladybugs had gathered on a rotting log where they had previously been “chilling out” for several months. Hippodamia convergens, known as the Convergent ladybug, exhibits this adaptive behavior; these ladybugs will migrate in the fall to higher elevations to overwinter in large aggregations consisting of thousands of individuals. Just as the unseasonably sunny weather inspired Lila to go for a hike, the ladybugs awoke from their rest feeling frisky and ready for action.  Gentlemen and lady ladybugs paired off for a little afternoon delight, after which they prepared to migrate back down the mountain to lay eggs and find food. Both the adults and immature larvae are predators, feeding on soft-bodied insects such as aphids and mealybugs.   If you have ever purchased ladybugs from a store to use as a natural form a pest control, then you have first hand experience with the Convergent ladybug. California’s Sierra Nevada mountains boasts impressively large aggregations of overwintering Convergent ladybugs, where they are collected by the thousands for commercial use. Many entomologists do not endorse the practice of releasing these store bought ladybugs into your yard for natural pest management because of its questionable efficacy. As mentioned above, Convergent ladybugs migrate as soon as they warm up, so the majority of the chilled ladybugs released in your yard will instinctively fly away. This is not to say that ladybugs are not important as natural predators- they most certainly are! We have several hundred species of ladybugs in California that are already out on the prowl, looking for juicy bugs to eat. As long as we keep our yards a bug friendly zone, our local insect predators will come ahuntin’!  

Just a sample of the L.A. ladybug diversity that we have recorded as part of the BioSCAN project. Photo credit: Kelsey Bailey.   Ladybugs, along with butterflies and praying mantids, are one of the most beloved insects groups.  I have read dozens of poems celebrating the life of the ladybug, but my favorite of all are these wonderful limericks written by an entomologist of many talents, Emily Hartop. Please enjoy!   The Ladybug   A lady, a bug, dressed in spots A red coat with the blackest of dots So shiny and round She makes not a sound As dainty, along stem, she trots But surprise is lurking within For the dainty she is a him! And she isn’t so lovely The aphids are unlucky To make an encounter so grim   For this ‘lady’ she really is gruesome Her and her larvae a terrible twosome Both predaceous and fierce Their prey they do pierce Where did the “lady” name come from?   So I warn the ladybug lover Do not judge a book by its cover We may love this bug But he’s just a thug A hoodlum undercover!

(Posted by: Lisa Gonzalez)


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Ladybug Central

March 22, 2011

New Ladybug Record For North CampusOn a recent jaunt around the Museum I found a new ladybug record for the North Campus. Yes, I do get paid to walk around outside and look for insects (awesome job)! I also get paid to keep track of all the creatures we find out there and make sure they are added to our ever expanding North Campus species list. Including this new record, we have found seven different species of ladybugs in the North Campus!

This is Adalia bipunctata, also known as the Two-spotted Ladybug. One of the many things I love about ladybugs is they are so aptly named! Just refer to our Lost Ladybug Field Guide for Los Angeles and you'll find fantastically named species such as the Seven-spotted Ladybug, the Convergent Ladybug, and my favorite, the Twice-stabbed Ladybug (all of which have been found in the North Campus)! This two-spotted ladybug, was found on a bush, recently emerged from its pupa, and then I snapped its picture.Maybe you have Two-spotted Ladybugs in your neighborhood, or what about another species that hasn't been recorded in Los Angeles yet? Check out our Lost Ladybug website for easy to follow instructions, so you can help me track ladybugs in L.A.

(Posted by: Lila Higgins)


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