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Ladybugs, ladybirds, or lady beetles? All of these names are common ways to refer to the iconic red and black insects we find in our gardens, parks, and agricultural fields. Although not all ladybugs are red and black (some are even yellow or brown), they all share characteristics that will help you identify them.
As with all insects in the Order Coleoptera (the beetle group), ladybugs have two pairs of wings. The front set of wings is modified into shell-like coverings called elytra. These are the parts of the ladybug we notice first, with variable patterns of spots, streaks, bands, blotches, or nothing at all. The other part of the ladybug that you will become familiar with, if you want to identify them, is the pronotum. This body part is actually the first segment of an insect's thorax (the second body part of all insects, where the wings and legs join the body). It can easily be located by looking between the wings and head, some people think it looks like a collar. As with the elytra, you will want to take note of the patterns on the pronotum.
Once you become adept at finding, collecting, and photographing ladybugs you will realize ladybug identification is relatively easy for the large, showy species. Below we have created a field guide to the most common larger ladybugs of the Los Angeles region. You can also print out a copy of our field guide (950K, PDF), to take out on your next trip. Happy ladybug hunting!
As you may have guessed, I come in many different color patterns, with many spots or just a few. I am consistently large and rounded. I was introduced from Japan for biocontrol of garden and agricultural pests. I am now very common on the East Coast and am becoming more common in the West.
I am a California native ladybug with an oval, rather than rounded, body. I can have 13 or fewer spots. I take my name from the two converging white lines on my pronotum (the shield like part that covers my head). In the winter you can find me in huge colonies in the local mountains.
I am another introduced species of ladybug closely related to the nine-spot. I was introduced from Europe in 1956 and have spread throughout the United States. I always have three spots on each elytra (shell-like front wings), with my seventh spot in the middle.
Instead of spots I have markings that look like punctuation! With either two or four black marks that make up my parentheses, I am not easily confused with the nine-spot. I am a small ladybug and I am native to North America.
Unlike many ladybugs I have markings of the opposite colors — red spots instead of black. Because of this coloration I am very easy to identify in the field. I am native to California and can sometimes be found in orchards.
Cycloneda polita, and Cycloneda sanguinea
We are ladybugs with no spots! The only way to tell us apart is to look at the white markings on our pronota (remember, the shield like covering between our head and wings). If the white markings do not form fully enclosed circles then it is C. polita; if they do form fully enclosed circles then it is C. sanguinea.
You found me! I am the nine-spot because I have four spots on each elytron and one split in the middle to make nine. My pronotum is black with white marks on the front. Please take my picture immediately and send it in.
If you are not finding your ladybug in our field guide try Discover Life's searchable field guide.
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