Another Amazing Insect Story in the Garden: Ladybugs!

1 Jul

I don’t know what’s happened to the black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars — most of them seem to have disappeared, and I haven’t seen the telltale massive poops that let you know they’ve gone off to form chrysalises.  Then again, I’ve been pretty in-and-out of the garden lately. . .

We have a new crazy amazing insect story, though!  Back a few weeks ago I was noticing that our lettuces, carrot greens even, were infested with aphids (see the first pic — and sorry they’re lame, just with my iPhone) — really, the aphids were crawling everywhere.  Then I saw this totally weird looking — almost scorpion-like — bug everywhere too . . . mostly on the lettuces and carrots, but also a couple on the eggplants.  I assumed it was a bad guy but my experience from years ago when I thought the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars should be moved out of our garden taught me to wait to remove the bugs until I found out what they were. Thanks to rapid email back-and-forth among our more veteran gardeners, we figured it out.

Cut to . . . Spoiler Alert:  see the middle pic above of the ladybug larva, a.k.a., crazy scorpion bug!  I also noticed some funny, un-moving sort-of ladybug like creatures, that almost looked like ladybugs molting, shedding their skin.  I’m going to try to get a pic of one of those tomorrow to add to the gallery — but guess what I just learned (thanks to google):  those are ladybug pupae! Apparently, the ladybug seems to be asleep for a few days, but it’s not sleeping at all; it’s becoming an adult ladybug.  When it emerges, it’s color may be a little off (I’m now wondering if a ladybug Frankie had found and showed me today that was almost yellow was a newly emerged ladybug).  Over time, they turn to the characteristic red with black spots.

I’m also going to look for eggs tomorrow — apparently, ladybugs tend to lay them on the undersides of leaves.  They look like tiny yellowish jelly beans, and are laid in groups of 10-15.  If I find anything, I’ll take another lame pic with my iPhone!

Learn about the life cycle of the ladybug (better pics, too!)!

It is fascinating to let a garden take shape not just as a source for healthy veggies and herbs but also as an ecosystem, where an aphid infestation isn’t a disaster but a boon — because it leads to lots of ladybugs!  Maybe not the best way to feed one’s family, but certainly a wonderful way to learn!

UPDATE: And here is a pic of a ladybug pupa from our garden — there are many, on the undersides of all kinds of leaves. This one was on a snap pea leaf:
ladybug pupa

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2 Responses to “Another Amazing Insect Story in the Garden: Ladybugs!”

  1. wearybee July 2, 2014 at 11:29 AM #

    Great post. Being able to identify insects in all stages of their life cycle is as important to the gardener as recognizing trees without their leaves is to the forester. I’ll now be on the lookout for ladybug eggs.

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