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18 spotted ladybug

In Praise of Moderation

Celebrating the mild instead of the wild

Monday, December 1, 2008

18 Spots

Did you know that a ladybug can have 18 spots on its back?

That means nine dots on each wing, in a symmetrical pattern.

I know this because I just had one on the end of my finger, and I counted them. Of course, I had to put it down or I wouldn’t be able to type. So, now it is crawling over a roll of stamps.

I don’t know where this ladybug came from. It just appeared on my computer desk. But I have noticed times when ladybugs just seem to appear, and in great profusion. They have been known to cluster in large groups in odd corners of the upstairs hallway.

These are apparently Asian lady beetles , formally known as Harmonia axyridis. They are part of the beetle family Coccinellidae . When they cluster in a corner, they are trying to hibernate. They are not all ladies, of course. Only the really spotty ones are ladies. The ones with no spots or few spots are males.

Interestingly, as the name suggests, they are not native to this country. Asian lady beetles were introduced to several states (including Pennsylvania) perhaps as early as 1916 and continuing into the 1990s to try to control pests such as aphids or scale insects. Now, of course, they are everywhere.

There are species of ladybug that are native to the U.S., so I am not sure why it was deemed necessary to bring in foreign ladybugs. Perhaps they have bigger appetites.

In England and Australia, ladybugs are called ladybirds.

It would appear that the clustering ladybugs are the Asian ones, not the native ones; the habit of clustering indoors to hibernate can create unpleasant infestations. Also, these beetles can emit a nasty smell, although I can’t say that I notice it on this particular bug. The smell is from compounds produced by the beetles to ward off predators such as birds.

Uh oh, the ladybug is now inside my coffee cup. I am not sure that the caffeine would be good for her.

Here’s a creepy thought for you wine lovers out there (you know who you are). Asian lady beetles have been known to get mixed into wines because there are so many of them on the grapes when they are harvested. The compounds they emit then become a part of the wine.

Winemakers call this unusual taste and smell in the wine ” ladybug taint “; it is the methoxypyrazine compounds in the ladybugs, compounds also found in wines, that could change the character of the wine; they are said to smell of bell peppers, or roasted peanuts. This is obviously of some concern to the winemaking industry.

At least one winemaker does not seem to be put off of the lady beetle, however; the Lolonis Winery is an organic winery that uses the pest control qualities of the lady beetle to avoid the use of pesticides. Lolonis Winery is so fond of these insects that the ladybug is the symbol of Lolonis Wines.

In Praise of Moderation Celebrating the mild instead of the wild Monday, December 1, 2008 18 Spots Did you know that a ladybug can have 18 spots on its back? That means nine dots on

UK Beetle Recording

The harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) is also known as the multicoloured Asian ladybird and the Halloween Ladybird. It has a very variable appearance, which can make it difficult to tell apart from some of our native ladybirds!

The descriptions below should help you, and there are lots of ladybird images for you to see at the bottom of the page.

Download the ladybird identification sheet to help you distinguish the harlequin ladybird from other native British ladybirds.

UK Beetle Recording The harlequin ladybird ( Harmonia axyridis ) is also known as the multicoloured Asian ladybird and the Halloween Ladybird. It has a very variable appearance, which can make