Ladybugs come in a variety of colors, despite the fact that when you hear the word, you probably picture a tiny, red beetle with black spots. There are more than 6,000 species in the Coccinellidae family, which goes by the names ladybugs, lady beetles, or ladybird beetles.
Because there are so many different species, it should come as no surprise that they need a variety of foods and beverages to survive in your garden.
There are a few species of these tiny creatures that will eat fruit and vegetable plants, but the majority of them are considered beneficial for gardens because they consume undesirable insects that harm your plants. In this article, we’ll discuss the species that are most likely to inhabit your garden and describe what they typically eat and drink while they’re there.
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Ladybugs Habits, and Biology
Ladybugs can live on any continent and prefer to be near their prey, specifically in areas with a lot of plants, herbs, shrubs, trees, or lawns. They prefer warmer environments, and during the winter they seek refuge under rocks or bark to avoid the cold.
All of the different ladybug species’ larvae develop from eggs that are typically laid in clusters and attached to the leaves of grasses and trees. They typically have an oval shape and a color that is either orange or yellow. We can refer to ladybugs as a natural insecticide because they typically eat aphids rather than plants or vegetables. They get rid of dangerous aphids without having to poison the garden. Ladybugs are actually used to removing mites or aphid pests in some areas. During the summer, a single ladybug is said to be capable of devouring up to 1,000 prey items, making them an extremely effective biological pest control agent. Ladybugs can be released and simply left to feed on aphids on crops that have been severely infested. The ecological balance depends on ladybugs. Poisonous insecticides are not required if they can keep aphids at bay. Despite being safe for humans, they may be dangerous for other types of insects or the birds that consume them. Ladybugs also contribute to the risk-free maintenance of food chains.
These helpful beetles are independent creatures. They are solitary creatures that spend the day by themselves hunting for food. A single ladybug can produce up to 400 eggs in a single laying, and the eggs hatch between March and April. As the aphid larvae begin to feed before becoming adults, it is typical for them to be left on the leaves of plants that have them. When winter arrives, ladybugs resume their hibernation cycle, which takes two months to complete.
On the other hand, ladybugs are independent, but when it comes time to hibernate, they congregate in large groups to protect themselves from the cold. Additionally, because they are all together, it is simpler for them to mate and produce offspring when they awaken in the early spring.
What Ladybugs Eat
Aphids are the main food source for the majority of these beetles. Some species only eat a particular species of aphid, whereas others will consume any aphid they come across. The harm aphids cause to your plants will be lessened because a single ladybug can eat 5,000 aphids in their lifetime.
When aphids are scarce, these pests will also eat other insects in your garden. Almost any small, soft-bodied insect will suffice as food for them. Other insect species that they will eat are listed in the table below.
- Beetle Eggs
- Butterfly Eggs
- Moth Eggs
- Oak Leaf Phylloxera
- Scale Insects
- Spider Mites
When food sources are limited, ladybugs will even eat the eggs of other ladybugs!
These beetles also eat pollen. Pollen may make up as much as 50% of the typical Kentucky lady beetle’s diet. While consuming the pollen, ladybugs can even pollinate some flowers.
Eaten powdery mildew spores have been discovered by the twenty-spotted lady beetle. They will also consume the conidia that powdery mildew produces as food. Since powdery mildew can harm all types of plants and trees, this is yet another great reason to keep these insects around.
What Ladybugs Drink
Yes, they will merely hydrate themselves with water. They will visit your garden if it has a fountain or bird bath with water, and they will drink from it.
5. Flower Nectar
Flower nectar, which provides both food and water, is consumed by ladybugs. They typically favor shallow flowers, such as coriander, alyssum, and dill, whose nectar is accessible to them with their mouthparts.
Over 2,000 plant species contain extrafloral nectaries (EFN), a little-known gland that creates nectar in a manner similar to flowers. These beetles will also consume the nectar from extrafloral nectaries.
6. Honeydew Excretions
It is not surprising that ladybugs will sip on honeydew while consuming aphids since honeydew is a byproduct of aphids. They will drink the honeydew that aphids produce which may reduce the growth of black sooty mold on plants.
What the Bad Ladybugs Eat
While most species are good, there are three common species in North America that will feed on vegetables and fruits.
7. Vegetable Leaves
The squash beetle (Epilachna Borealis) can cause big problems in your vegetable garden and will eat most plants in the Cucurbitaceae family which includes squash, cucumbers, melons, and pumpkins. These plants’ leaves are their primary source of food, which results in dieback and lessens the plant’s capacity to produce fruits. They resemble a golden yellow color, have seven spots on each wing, and are roughly twice as big as other common ladybugs.
The Mexican bean beetle (Epilachna varivestis) is another bad beetle found in your garden. As the name suggests, beans are their preferred food including snap beans, lima beans, cowpeas, black-eyed peas, soybean, clover, alfalfa, velvet bean, mung, and adzuki.
Mexican bean beetles, like the squash beetle, predominately eat the plant’s leaves, which causes plant dieback and reduced fruit production. Although they are more orange in color and have 8 spots on each wing, they resemble squash beetles in appearance.
The multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) is also considered a pest, but not in the same way as the previously mentioned pests. When their primary food sources are exhausted, they will eat fall-ripening fruits like grapes, strawberries, and apples. They pose a bigger threat to your house, though.
These animals need a place to spend the winter, and they favor buildings like your house. Using a unique, species-specific pheromone that attracts all of their nearby buddies, they will swarm into your house.
Unlike some other insect pests, they won’t eat anything inside your house, but they can excrete a smelly, yellow substance from their joints that can stain clothing and light-colored surfaces.
What Ladybugs Don’t Eat
The majority of these beetles can consume almost anything that is soft, small, and slow enough to catch because they are generalist feeders. They do, however, have preferences, and unless their lives depend on it, they are very unlikely to eat certain things.
The limiting factor for ladybirds is speed, even though they can theoretically consume any small, soft-bodied insect. They are not known to have eaten the insects listed in the table below, not because they are unable to, but rather because of how quickly they can fly or jump away.
- Fruit Flies
- Fungus Gnats
- Stink Bugs
They might be eating some of these species’ eggs, though it would be difficult to tell because it probably only happens occasionally.
Lady beetles are not likely to feed on any other plants besides those listed above, with the exception of pollen and nectar. Except for the Mexican bean beetle and the squash beetle, ladybugs don’t eat your grass, flowers, or leaves.
What Do Ladybugs Eat During Winter?
In fact, most people in North America skip meals during the winter! Instead, they find a place to hibernate and enter a state of dormancy during the winter. They do this because the winter months are when plants and insects are least plentiful.
They don’t actually eat during the winter; instead, they just find a cozy place to curl up, slow down their metabolism, and take a long nap until the plants and insects they consume reappear in the spring.
How to Keep the Good Ladybugs in Your Garden
Keep the good lady beetles in your garden for a variety of reasons. They will consume unwanted insect pests and offer your garden a number of other helpful services.
Raising Your Own Pet Ladybugs
It can be challenging for some people to try to raise their own ladybugs as pets that they can then release in their gardens. You would have to be able to give them a reliable source of food, which might be challenging at certain times of the year.
When other insects are scarce, the majority of these beetles will only eat pollen and mildew. It’s likely that your ladybug won’t be as content or live as long if you try to feed it leaves but never give it insects to eat.
Purchasing Ladybugs to Release in Your Garden
Buying and releasing these helpful insects is an easier way to introduce them to your garden. But if you don’t provide them with food and liquids, they might just take off in search of what they require.
Making Your Garden Attractive for Good Ladybugs
Make sure to give the animals as much food and water as you can if you plan to release them in your garden.
In order to provide food, you can have a lot of flowers in your garden, which will probably draw some of the insects that ladybugs consume so they can eat the pollen. You can grow plants with EPNs or shallow flowers, such as coriander or dill, to give them something to drink. You can also add a water feature.
Additionally, you ought to give them a home so they can hibernate there during the winter. Online, it’s simple to find a wide variety of ladybug homes to buy or build. Just be certain that it will protect them from the elements during the winter and that the entry holes are small enough to keep any larger insects or mammals out.
Insecticides that will harm your ladybug population should not be sprayed in your garden, one last precaution.
You might not even need to buy and release lady beetles if you attract them to your garden. They’ll probably find the oasis you’ve made for them on their own and decide to stay.
Why Do Ladybugs Invade My House in the Fall?
In the fall, when they invade homes in search of a warm place to spend the winter, ladybugs tend to cause the most trouble. Instead of native ladybugs, these are typically Asian ladybeetles. The intrusion of a stray ladybug is not the issue. Ladybugs frequently appear in large numbers.
Ladybugs should be carefully vacuumed or swept up before being dumped outside. If you vacuum them, empty the vacuum bag right away because otherwise they will crawl back into the house. Ladybugs don’t consume food or liquids or lay eggs inside. If you don’t put them outside, they’ll hibernate inside and then scurry around in the spring trying to get out.
Conclusion: Beneficial Outside, Pests Inside
In the garden, ladybugs are overwhelmingly beneficial. The pests that would otherwise eat your plants, such as aphids, are controlled by them. Simply planting sources of the nectar and pollen ladybugs can consume will draw them to your garden. Setting out water for them will also draw them in, but make sure it is safe for them to drink.
Because they gather in large numbers on white or light-colored walls that are exposed to the sun, Asian lady beetles can be a nuisance. Numerous Asian lady beetles can overwinter inside your home when the weather turns cold. Sealing the gaps and crevices where they enter is the best way to stop this.
Do Ladybugs Eat Spiders?
Small enough for them to attack and capture, ladybugs eat spiders. When there aren’t many aphids, they’re particularly likely to eat spiders and other insects.
What Can I Feed a Ladybug in My Home?
It’s best to leave the ladybug alone in the winter or to set it outside during warm weather. Ladybugs won’t survive long if they aren’t overwintering because they don’t feed or lay eggs inside the home. Aphids from diseased plants can be fed to a ladybug you keep as a pet. To give the ladybug a drink, spread out a wet paper towel. Small mealyworms that you can buy at pet stores are another food item that ladybugs will consume.
Do Ladybugs Eat Grass?
No, ladybugs consume small, soft-bodied insects and spiders. They avoid eating grass.
Do Ladybugs Eat Lettuce?
No, ladybugs don’t consume lettuce.
WhaDo Ladybugs Eat Fruit?
No, ladybugs don’t consume fruit.
Do Ladybugs Eat Each Other?
Yes, ladybugs will consume the eggs, larva, and pupa of other ladybugs, especially if there is a lack of available prey.