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Scientific name: Coccinellidae

Did you know that the nine-spotted lady bug is New York State’s official insect? These brightly colored small beetles are a favorite of many. The scientific name for this group of bugs, coccinellids, comes from the Latin word for scarlet. Unfortunately, this nine-spotted ladybug species is quite rare as it has been overtaken by the Asian beetles which were introduced in New York back in the 1940s. These are very similar looking but with a different number of spots or other markings. All these beetles are good for pest control and the ladybug is known for its prodigious aphid eating abilities.

Indeed, a ladybug can eat up to 5,000 insects in its lifetime.

Nine Spotted Ladybug
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Many of Us Grew Up Hearing this Rhyme

Ladybug! Ladybug!
Fly away home.
Your house is on fire.
And your children all gone.

Its origins are unclear and there is much speculation with no real answer. One theory is that it might have been a warning in code to Catholics practicing their faith back at the time it was illegal in England. As we have seen, the Virgin Mary was linked by name to the “lady” bug. We will never know for sure.

Life Cycle

Watch the video to the left!

Ecosystem Connections

Birds, frogs, wasps, spiders and others will eat the ladybug.

Human Connections

The origins of the name ladybug are quite interesting. It seemed to have captured the imagination of many.

Long ago in England, the scarlet red shell of this beetle reminded some of the Blessed Mother Mary’s red cloak. The seven spots of the bug were interpreted to represent the seven sorrows and the seven joys of Our Lady. So, in England, this beetle came to be known as Our Lady’s Bird or a  Ladybeetle. This concept transcended culture as the German word for lady bug translates to Marybeetle in English. In the U.S., the name evolved to a more secular “ladybug”.


Similar Species

Although ladybugs and Asian lady beetles look similar and belong to the same insect family, they don’t behave similarly. Ladybugs are considered highly beneficial, harmless insects. They don’t bite, they consume several harmful garden pests such as aphids, and they never congregate in large numbers. Most importantly, when it gets cold out they seek shelter outdoors. Asian lady beetles hunt garden pests, too, but that’s where the similarities end. Asian lady beetles are considered a true pest. Unlike ladybugs, Asian lady beetles will gather in large groups, especially around warm, reflective surfaces like windows. Asian lady beetles “bite” by scraping the skin they land on, and leave a yellow, foul-smelling liquid on surfaces where they gather. Worst of all, Asian lady beetles will attempt to enter your home when they look for overwintering shelters. Basically, think of Asian lady beetles as ladybugs’ evil twins. Telling them apart is important because even if you’re cool with ladybugs, you don’t want Asian lady beetles hanging around. ‌

Interesting to know

Yes, the red in your red velvet cupcake comes from the dehydrated and crushed shells of an insect ! The name coccinelledae might sound a lot like cochineal, which is another red insect. Their shells are dried out, and processed into carmine dyes. Carmine is used as a red in cosmetics, and food.  It is safe and probably preferable to other red dyes. So unless you are a vegan or kosher, no worries. Read more here.

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