Ladybugs may be the cutest insects around, but they don’t start off that way. Also called lady beetles or ladybirds, they pop out of their eggs as prickly mini-monsters with an insatiable hunger for aphids. Once they’ve bulked up, they transform, shedding their terrifying looks, but keeping their killer vibes.
What is prickly … ferocious … and also one of the most beloved insects around?
Well, a teenage one.
And this ladybug larva has something to teach us about appearances.
Menacing or cute, the ladybug is a stone cold killer.
There are about 6,000 species of ladybugs.
Also called lady beetles or ladybirds, they come in varying shades and with different numbers of spots.
Sometimes even no spots.
It’s a myth that ladybugs gain a spot every year, but those markings are a useful way to tell different species apart.
Whatever they are, they all start out here.
As eggs laid in neat clusters by their mom.
About a week later these mini-alligators crawl free.
These larvae have an insatiable hunger for aphid insides.
The larvae stalk their unsuspecting prey, feeling around with their sensitive legs.
Though to be honest, the plump little aphids aren’t exactly a challenge to bring down.
Their main defense is to make lots of aphids.
And I mean a lot.
Sometimes, the ladybug larva starts on one end of the aphid and eats it alive.
Other times, it’ll just treat the aphid like a juice box – ditch what’s left and bail.
In the roughly three weeks it takes the larva to grow up, it’ll eat hundreds of these scrumptious treats.
It needs to bulk up for what comes next
The larva finds a cozy spot close to its favorite snacks.
It exudes a sticky liquid from its backside and cements itself in place.
Then, it hunches over and squirms in rhythmic convulsions.
The larva’s about to say goodbye to its old goth look and reinvent itself.
It sheds its outer layer, legs and all, to reveal a ladybug pupa.
An in-between stage where it can spend some time alone figuring out who it really wants to be.
It spends the next week going through a major metamorphosis.
When it’s ready to do some adulting, the full-grown ladybug emerges.
Take that, butterflies!
You’re not the only ones that create an all new persona for yourselves.
Once it’s free, the ladybug’s armored forewings, called elytra, harden and develop their color and spots.
Not that spots are required.
The elytra protect the ladybug’s delicate hindwings, which it now stretches out for the very first time.
Those wings open whole new worlds to a grown ladybug.
Not only can the adults fly from plant to plant looking for food and mates,
but the wings also allow the ladybug to migrate huge distances.
It’ll eat up to 5,000 aphids in its adventurous life.
That makes them a true ally to us, protecting our farms and gardens from harmful pests.
So don’t be fooled by that candy-apple coating.
Under the hood, the ladybug is still the same wild, relentless hunter it’s always been.
Hi Deep Peeps …
Check out this episode about how aphid moms give birth to babies that are … already pregnant!
It’s an aphid onslaught!