The Yellow-Blooded Hero

Kelly’s Field Notes

Common Name: Ladybug, Ladybird, Ladybeetle

Family: Coccinellidae (Around 5,000 species worldwide! Over 470 species in North America (Gordan, 1985))

Species of Note:

  • Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) is the most common native ladybug species in Europe.

  • The Convergent ladybug (Hippodamia convergens) is the most common native ladybug species in North America.

  • The Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) is reducing native populations of ladybugs in Europe and North America (Adriaens and Maes, 2003; Koch and Galvan, 2007; Evans, 2017). They were introduced several times in North America and Europe as a form of biological control (aphids, scales, etc.). By the mid-1980's over 179 species were introduced into North America (Gordon, 1985).

Life Cycle:

Ladybugs start out as one of 5-300 eggs (depending on species), laid by their mother usually on the bottom side of leaves or among an aphid nest. One female can lay around 1,000 eggs per season! When they are ready to hatch the larvae are hungry and voracious predators. If food looks scarce, some species lay extra infertile eggs to feed their young (Perry, 2005).

Larvae are spiny, black and red, with long abdomens. They stay in that stage for about a month, eating as much as possible! You will often find them where aphids are, they make great pest control for your garden (please use native ladybugs for this only!).

When they are ready to become adults they form a pupa. The pupa protects them as they transform into adults. We call this complete metamorphosis, due to their four distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The entire timespan from eggs to adults takes about 4 to 8 weeks.

Super Powers:

  • Warning coloration! Ladybug larvae and adults are brightly colored. They come in red, yellow, and, orange, black, white, grey, pink, and blue. We call this aposematism and it lets predators know they are not good eats!

  • Toxic hemolymph (hemolymph can be likened to an insect’s blood)! Adults ooze yellow hemolymph from leg joints that stinks and is an irritant. Larvae also ooze from their abdomens (Glisan et al., 1996). Some dogs and people develop allergies if exposed (Goetz, 2009; AKC Staff, 2021).

Ladybugs in Culture:

  • Ladybugs were once called Freyja’s Hens or Frejya’s Birds (Freyjuhœna, Freyafugle) in Old Norse. Freyja was the goddess of fertility and beauty (among other things) of the Nordic people. When the Conversion Period hit and the northern European countries were transitioning to Christianity that name changed to reflect the times. Freyja’s birds became Our Lady’s birds or Mary’s hens or Mary’s cows after the Virgin Mary (Roache, 1960). In French they are Poulette de la Madone. In Chinese they are called ladle bugs (piáo chóng) due to their shape.

  • Ladybugs are the official state insect of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, and Tennessee (USNPS, 2022)

  • Ladybugs are considered good luck in many countries!


Adriaens, Tim, Etienne Branquart, and Dirk Maes. "The multicoloured Asian ladybird Harmonia axyridis Pallas (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), a threat for native aphid predators in Belgium?." Belgian journal of zoology 133.2 (2003): 195-196.

American Kennel Club Staff. “What to Do if Your Dog Eats Ladybugs”. American Kennel Club. (2021)

Evans, Edward W. "Fates of rare species under siege from invasion: Persistence of Coccinella novemnotata Herbst in western North America alongside an invasive congener." Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 5 (2017): 152.

Glisan King, Angela, and Jerrold Meinwald. "Review of the defensive chemistry of coccinellids." Chemical Reviews 96.3 (1996): 1105-1122.

Goetz, David W. "Seasonal inhalant insect allergy: Harmonia axyridis ladybug." Current opinion in allergy and clinical immunology 9.4 (2009): 329-333.

Gordon, Robert D. "The Coccinellidae (Coleoptera) of America north of Mexico." Journal of the New York Entomological Society 93.1 (1985).

Honek, Alois, Zdenka Martinkova, and Stano Pekar. "Aggregation characteristics of three species of Coccinellidae (Coleoptera) at hibernation sites." European Journal of Entomology 104.1 (2007): 51.

Koch, Robert L., and Tederson L. Galvan. "Bad side of a good beetle: the North American experience with Harmonia axyridis." From biological control to invasion: the ladybird Harmonia axyridis as a model species. Springer, Dordrecht, 2007. 23-35.

Perry, Jennifer C., and Bernard D. Roitberg. "Ladybird mothers mitigate offspring starvation risk by laying trophic eggs." Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 58.6 (2005): 578-586.

Roache, Lewie C. "Ladybug, Ladybug: What's in a Name?." The Coleopterists' Bulletin (1960): 21-25.

United States National Parks Service. “Ladybug”. Accessed June, 2022.