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Friday, Nov. 2, 2001

ANIMAL TRACKER

Asian ladybug


News photo

* Japanese Name: Namitento
* Scientific name: Harmonia axyridis

* Description: This is an oval, convex beetle with shiny wing cases. Typically, ladybugs are red with black spots, but this species, which is also called the multicolored Asian ladybug, comes in many color forms. Some may be black with four red dots, like in the photo above, some may be orange with no spots, some have as many as 10 spots on each wing case. On the pronotum, the shield behind the head, there is often an "M" shape made of black dots.

* Where to find them: In gardens, fields, woods, parks. Asian ladybugs are often found in trees, especially maple, walnut, willow and rose. Females lay bright-yellow eggs in clusters of 20-40 on the underside of leaves. They hatch after two to three days, and the larvae are ready to pupate into adults after about 36 days. Adults can live up to three years. They are also called Halloween beetles because they tend to show up in swarms around the end of October.

* Food: Aphids. Adult ladybugs can eat up to 300 aphids per day. The larvae get through about 1,200 aphids during their development. This is why ladybugs are used as biological control agents in North America, and why gardeners and farmers love them.

* Special features: In times of food shortages, larvae and adult ladybugs may become cannibals, attacking and consuming eggs and other larvae. Cannibalism is rare in nature, but there is an even stranger thing that goes on in ladybugs. Some females are hosts to a type of bacteria that enter the eggs they lay. The bacteria does no harm to the eggs that will develop into females, but if they find themselves in male eggs, they kill them. Male-killing bacteria may help the surviving female offspring: They can eat their dead brothers.



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