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Ladybugs are a symbol of good luck and serve as nature’s pest control When many of us see a ladybug, we may think it’s a symbol of good luck. This idea may come from a common belief that ladybugs saved crops back in the middle ages. Legend has it that aphids were annihilating crops in Europe and the land owners prayed for help. Ladybugs came in and saved the day by consuming the aphids and the crops were spared. Or it could simply be because ladybugs are welcome guests in most gardens and to have them present is a form of natural pest control. The name “ladybug” is a bit misguided. In fact, ladybugs are not true bugs at all. They are members of the order Coleoptera, which is another term for beetles. True bugs are from the order Hemiptera. Ladybugs undergo the larva and pupa stages we know as metamorphosis. Like the beetle, they have a hard covering on their wings which serves as protection. Another form of protection for the brightly colored creature is their ability to secrete a nasty tasting liquid that most birds and other predators don’t care for. The fluid oozes out of its leg joints and has a nasty smell. They have also been known to play dead to discourage critters from making a meal of them. Their bright orange‐red color is also a detractor for many predators since most intensely colored creatures are poisonous. Their claim to fame is that they love to eat aphids, the nasty pests that gardeners would love to be rid of! It is believed the ladybugs eat thousands of these tiny creatures in their lifetimes. Even when in the larval stage, ladybugs dine on aphids and other garden pests. As adults, ladybugs have features that enable them to find prey; they have wings to fly, six legs to climb and antennae to sense movement. When dining on their miniscule meals, the ladybug’s mouth works from side to side with its powerful jaws. Ladybugs may form extremely large groups. It is believed that they clump together to stay warm in the winter. Some groups have included over a million ladybugs! Another interesting thing about these colorful insects is their lifespan. They live longer than many types of insects. Depending on the availability of food, the weather and abundance or lack of predators, ladybugs can live to the ripe old age of three to twelve months. Ladybugs are attracted to flowers that have bowl‐shaped blooms such as tulips and lilies. Since their structure entraps water, these blooms keep it nice and cool and provide a nice place for the spotted bugs to live. The tiny, round, yellow eggs they produce can usually be spotted in clusters on leaves where the plant remains at the coolest temperature, most likely the leaves located nearest the ground. When food is scarce, a female ladybug may lay extra eggs, some of which may be infertile. The reason she does this is to provide a food source for the larvae that hatched from the fertile eggs. After the eggs are placed, those that succeed will hatch within the next couple of weeks. The larvae stage lasts for about one month and the pupal stage about 15 days. Once the ladybug has achieved the larvae and pupae stages, it becomes and adult and is recognizable as the bright orange, black spotted insect that we are familiar with. As with other beetles, ladybugs have a hard covering on their wings that serve as protection. They can also fly with wings that move approximately 85 times per second. This may sound fast, but in reality ladybugs are somewhat slow in flight compared to other insects. For a number of reasons, it would seem that ladybugs aren’t thought of as typical “creepy” bugs, but as a source of amazement and wonder. They are very bright and cheerful looking creatures and they actually help keep the less desirable bugs out of our gardens.