Ladybugs are also known as coccinellids or ladybird beetles. There are about 4,000 species of these insects worldwide, most of them native to North America. The common name “ladybug” is a misnomer; it should be called a coccinellid.
The ladybug’s diet consists of various things such as aphids, caterpillars, and other small insects. They eat by piercing their prey with their sharp mandibles.
They have been found to feed on nearly 200 different kinds of plants, but they prefer to eat young leaves and shoots that are tender and succulent.
Below, we shall discuss in detail what ladybugs eat and drink and how they are helpful to the environment.
What Do Lady Bugs Eat?
Ladybugs are omnivorous, meaning that they will eat both animal and plant material. They are not picky eaters and will readily take advantage of any food source available.
Ladybugs are very beneficial for the environment because they help control pest populations. Many people think that ladybugs only eat harmful insects, but this is untrue. Ladybugs eat aphids, which are one of the most destructive agricultural pests in the world. Aphids cause billions of dollars worth of damage each year by sucking the juices out of crops, flowers, and trees.
Ladybugs also eat spider mites, which are another major problem for farmers. Spider mites are tiny arachnids that live on the undersides of leaves and stems. They suck sap from plants and weaken them, making them more susceptible to disease and environmental stresses.
Ladybugs also feed on pollen, which helps pollinate plants. Without ladybugs, there would be fewer fruits and vegetables grown.
Ladybugs also prey on other insects, including mosquitoes, flies, ants, wasps, and bees. In fact, some ladybug species even eat ticks!
Let’s look in detail into what ladybugs eat:
Aphids are one of the most common types of plant-eating insects. Aphids are usually greenish yellow and black in color, with long mouthparts used for sucking sap from host plants. These insects cause damage through the production of honeydew, which attracts ants and sooty mold.
Caterpillars are soft bodied insects that are often eaten by birds. Caterpillars are very beneficial because they help control certain types of weeds and grasses. Ladybugs are able to eat caterpillars without harming the vegetation.
Beetles are another type of insect pest that lady bugs eat. Beetles include some of the largest insects in the world. Some are predators while others are herbivores. Beetles are commonly seen eating flowers and leaf buds.
Insect pests include any kind of harmful insect that is harmful to human beings. Ladybugs eat a variety of insect pests. Here are a few of them that are commonly predated upon by ladybugs:
Bugs: Bugs are small flying insects that can be seen jumping all over your garden. Bugs are very annoying because they bite and suck blood. They can carry diseases if you allow them to get into your house.
Mosquitoes: Mosquitoes are tiny biting insects that transmit many diseases. Mosquito bites can cause itching, fever, headaches, and muscle aches.
Mosquitoes can also spread malaria, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus, encephalitis, filariasis, and chikungunya. Ladybugs tend to prevent mosquito breeding by consuming these insects.
Flies: Flies are flies in the family Diptera. They have four wings and two membranous hindwings called halteres. Flies are important pollinators for many plants. They are also useful in controlling populations of mosquitoes.
The ladybug’s diet includes many different kinds of insects, predominantly flies. A large part of the ladybug’s diet consists of various types of flies, including houseflies and fruit flies. Ladybugs are able to recognize certain colors and patterns associated with different species of flies.
Moths: Moths are insects belonging to the order Lepidoptera. There are more than 50,000 known species of moth worldwide. Adult moths have six wings and two pairs of antennae. Larvae are usually white and pupate underground.
Moths produce silken cocoons containing living larvae, which may look like little worms. Moth cocoons are found on leaves where the larvae were feeding. When mature, the larvae drop out of the cocoon and fly away.
Ladybirds: Ladybird beetles are members of the beetle family Coccinellidae. Each female lays one egg per day. The larva will feed on aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, spider mites, thrips, whiteflies, and other plant-feeding insects.
The larvae are black with red spots. They have long legs and broad bodies. Adults are about 1/4 inch (6 mm) long.
Grubs: Grubs are invertebrate animals that belong to the phylum Arthropoda. They have three body segments: head, thorax, and abdomen. Their bodies are covered with a hardened cuticle. Grubs have no true mouth parts; instead, they use chewing plates to break up their food.
There are many different kinds of grub. Some are leaf miners, some are root maggots, and others are wood borers. Most grubs are too small to see without magnification.
Worms: Worms are roundworms in the phylum Annelida. Worms are segmented organisms. As such, they have an anterior end that includes the head and a posterior end that includes the tail.
Worms do not have mouths. Instead, they absorb nutrients through their skin. They are hermaphrodites, meaning both males and females possess reproductive organs. Many species live in moist areas such as soil and rotting vegetation.
Fleas & Ticks: Fleas and ticks are parasitic arthropods. Both groups belong to the class Arachnida. They are closely related to spiders and scorpions. Fleas are relatively large in size compared to ticks. Ticks are smaller but sometimes longer than fleas.
Both groups have eight legs and two sets of mouthparts called chelicerae. A pair of compound eyes project from each side of the head.
Fleas are wingless and live only off blood. They bite their hosts repeatedly and then jump onto another host when the first is removed. To survive, fleas must find a warm place where there is plenty of blood.
Ticks attach themselves to their hosts by laying eggs into the skin. After hatching, the young tick feeds on its host’s blood until it becomes full grown. Then, it drops off the animal and waits for another host.
Snails: Snails are terrestrial gastropod mollusks in the class Gastropoda. They are characterized by having two shells. One shell is made from calcium carbonate and covers the soft fleshy part of the snail. This hard outer shell protects the soft inside of the snail from predators while the snail moves around.
Snails are active at night and during rainy weather. Their favorite habitats include forests, swamps, and grasslands.
Ants: Ants are social insects that build nests and communicate using chemical signals. They are known for their strong pheromone trails.
They are also important pollinators. Insect Pollination. Insects play many roles in ecosystems. Some insects eat plants or other insects. Others help control pests. Still others move pollen from one flower to another. There are more than 5,000 insect species in North America alone!
Some insects can be beneficial to humans. For example, ladybug beetles eat aphids and other harmful insects, so people often encourage them to visit gardens. Other insects feed on plant roots or fruit. Honeybees collect nectar from flowers and feed it back to the plant.
Insects make excellent pets because they are easy to care for, inexpensive, and very interesting.
Grasshoppers: Grasshoppers are orthopteran insects in the order Orthoptera. Orthopterans are distinguished by having four pairs of wings and a single pair of antennae. The hind legs are used mainly for jumping.
Grasshopper species vary greatly in size. Some are tiny and less than 1/2 inch long. Others are much larger. Some even grow to over 6 inches long! They usually hop quickly and run away if threatened.
Grasshoppers is common in fields, meadows, and open woodlands. Most grasshoppers feed on plants such as weeds, wildflowers, and garden vegetables. However, some eat decaying organic matter, making them good composters.
Termites: Termites are social insects with an advanced form of eusociality, which means colonies are organized like human families based on familial relationships. Like ants and bees, termites are highly successful as a group because they cooperate and share information about food resources.
Most termite species nest underground and lay eggs on damp logs or tree trunks. When these babies hatch, they begin eating wood. Over time, this process creates a mound or “termitarium.”
Termites are among the most destructive creatures in nature. In fact, there are more than 3 billion termite mounds in the United States alone. It takes about 100 pounds of wood a day just to keep up with the demands of termite colonies. As a result, termite infestations can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage each year.
Termites have been around since prehistoric times. They were once thought to be little more than a nuisance. Now we know better.
Spiders: Spiders are arachnids in the phylum Arthropoda. Arthropods are animals without jointed limbs. Instead of limbs, spiders have eight appendages called pedipalps. These serve as mouthparts, feet, and hands.
Spiders belong to six orders—Chelicerata (including scorpions), Crustacea (crabs, lobsters, shrimp, etc.), Hexapoda (insects), Myriapoda (centipedes and millipedes), Onychophora (velvet worms), and Trilobita (trilobites).
Many spiders spin webs for catching prey. A typical web has three parts: a sticky line along which caught prey falls; a funnel or basket where the captured prey is held; and a tube or trap through which the prey must pass before being released.
Some spiders produce silk that is strong enough to support their weight. Silk is made from protein fibers known as spidroins. Scientists think that spiders first developed silk to catch prey, then later learned how to use it to build nests and protect themselves against predators.
Many spiders also produce venom, which is not toxic to humans. This venom may help spiders immobilize prey or deter predators. Ladybugs eat spiders that are not too large and aggressive for them to handle.
Wasps: Wasps are another type of insect that lady bugs eat. Like bees, wasps use pollen and nectar to produce honey. They also lay eggs in nests where they hatch into larvae.
Moths: Moths are winged insects that resemble butterflies. Moths may be either carnivorous or herbivorous. Carnivorous moths eat other insects. Herbivorous moths eat only plant material.
Fleas: Fleas are tiny blood-feeding parasites that live on animals. They jump onto the skin of their hosts when flying and suck out blood. Fleas carry
Mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) are small dark red beetles that look like white maggots. They are actually members of the order Coleoptera.
Ladybugs feed on mealworms by sucking up their soft bodies. The beetle larvae are nutritious and easy to raise. Mealworms are widely used in research labs as well as in school cafeterias.
A large part of the ladybug’s diet consists of mealworms. Each ladybug eats an average of 2,000 mealworm larvae per week. That means one adult ladybug consumes approximately 1 pound of mealworms every month!
Plant And Plant Material
Ladybugs also feed on plant materials such as leaves, flowers, fruits, roots, seeds, fungi, bark, twigs, and grasses. Some ladybugs feed on algae, mosses, lichens, and even soil.
The two most important organs of ladybugs are their stomach and crop. These organs allow ladybugs to digest plant material. The crop stores food while the stomach digests it.
Following are a few species of plants that ladybugs prefer to eat:
Citrus: Citrus trees provide many different types of fruit. Ladybugs love citrus because its juice contains citronella oil, which repels mosquitoes.
Tomato Plants: Tomato plants contain lots of water and nutrients. Ladybugs can easily get these nutrients from tomato leaves.
Flowering Trees: Flowering trees provide nectar and pollen. Ladybugs feed on this pollen and nectar.
Grass: Grass provides both pollen and nectar. Ladybugs feed on both.
Bark: Bark is full of fiber, minerals, and vitamins. It is very hard for ladybugs to chew through bark. However, some ladybugs do chew through bark to reach the sap inside.
Leaves: Leaves are full of water and nutrients. Many ladybugs feed on leaves.
Fruits: Fruits are high in sugar and energy. Ladybugs enjoy eating ripe fruits.
Seeds: Seeds are rich in fat and protein. Ladybugs often eat seeds after they have been dispersed by birds or wind.
Soil: Soil is full of organic matter such as decaying leaves and fungus. Ladybugs find soil beneficial because it helps them grow.
Algae: Algae are microscopic organisms found in ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans. Ladybugs feed on algae because it is rich in proteins and fats.
Lichen: Lichens are a combination of fungi and algae. Ladybugs feed on lichens because they contain more protein than algae.
Moss: Moss is made up of dead plant material. Ladybugs feed on moss because it has plenty of water and nutrients.
Ladybugs can eat many types of plants including some poisonous ones. However, if you want to grow your own garden, you should avoid planting these kinds of plants.
Nectar and Pollen: Ladybugs also feed on nectar and pollen.
What Do Ladybugs Drink?
Ladybugs drink water when they need to quench their thirst. When a ladybug drinks, it uses its mouthparts to suck up liquid. However, do ladybugs need water to survive? No, ladybugs don’t need water to survive.
They can live without drinking water for several weeks. A ladybug also drinks nectar and pollen. Nectar is a sweet-tasting fluid that comes from flowering plants. Pollen is a sticky substance that comes from male plants. Ladybugs drink nectar to obtain sugars and nutrients. Ladybugs also use pollen to produce eggs.
How Are Ladybugs Helpful For Your Garden?
Ladybugs have a long history of being used for pest control. In fact, the first recorded use was by Native Americans who placed crushed ladybugs on their cornfields to keep aphids away. Today, many people still rely on this method of pest control.
Ladybug larvae eat aphids, scale insects, mealy bugs, caterpillars, and other soft-bodied pests. Adults feed on nectar from flowers, pollen, and sap from trees and shrubs. Ladybugs can live up to two years. Ladybugs lay eggs that hatch into tiny, white grublike larvae. These larvae look like miniature versions of adults. When ready to pupate, the larvae change color and shape.
Pupae resemble small black moths. After several days, the adult emerges from the pupa. Ladybugs are one of the best natural predators of aphids. Aphids secrete honeydew, a sticky substance that attracts ants. Ants then carry aphids back to the nest where they become food for the ant’s young. Ladybugs are beneficial because they consume aphids before they multiply.
Ladybugs may also help prevent diseases such as citrus greening (Citrus Greening) by eating the aphids that transmit the disease. Ladybugs are easy to raise at home. You will need an aquarium or terrarium, a shallow dish, and some water. For more information, see How To Raise Ladybugs.
Ladybugs are very important pollinators. They visit plants during the day and collect pollen on their legs. This helps fertilize the plant’s ovules and increases fruit set. Some scientists believe that ladybugs’ ability to disperse pollen could play a role in increasing crop yields.
Ladybugs are also good indicators of soil health. If you notice that your garden has fewer ladybugs than usual, there might be a problem with the soil. Ladybugs are attracted to healthy gardens.
As a result, many homeowners try to attract ladybugs to their homes by planting certain types of plants. Many people also release ladybugs into their yards to encourage them to stay. However, releasing too many ladybugs can cause problems.
Too much competition between ladybugs can lead to decreased numbers. Also, if you release ladybugs into your yard, they may fly off and get lost. It is better to let nature take its course. Ladybugs are generally harmless to humans.