Ladybugs: What Makes Them Unique? Differences Between Ladybugs and Aphids/Bees/Butterflies

Ladybugs are beautiful friendly insects. They are usually harmless to humans, and they even help gardeners by munching on other insects that harm plants. Ladybugs are also said to bring good luck! 

But how can we recognize a ladybug when we see one? Some things to know about ladybugs before we start: ladybugs are usually small, red, and have black dots on their backs, but that is not always the case.

These bugs can be orange, and yellow too, and sometimes in other colors. This is because there are more than 5000 kinds of ladybugs in the world. However, you are most likely to see the red ladybug. 

So what makes these bugs different from other insects? Let’s start! 

Ladybugs Aphids Bees Butterflies 
Other names / typesLadybirds, ladybird beetles, lady beetles Greenfly, blackflyHoney bees, bumblebees, stingless bees, mason bees, carpenter bees 
Size: 0.8 – 18 mm

1 – 10 mm2 – 40 mmVaries – can be very small but also huge 
Color: Usually red, orange, or yellow, but other color patterns are also possible Black, green, white, pink, brown, or almost colorless Black with yellow stripes (in most cases) All kinds of colors and patterns! 
What do they eat? Mostly aphids and other small insects Plants Nectar and pollen from flowers Usually nectar from flowers 
Where do they live? Pretty much anywhere where they can find food. Usually on plants In hives (honey bees) or in small holes (solitary bees)  Wherever there are trees or other plants for them to rest on 
Do they bite humans? Usually not (And when they do it’s not dangerous)Most species don’t. (It is extremely rare) Bees do not bite, but they can usually sting if disturbed, which is quite painful No, they can’t bite. 

Ladybugs vs Aphids 

Aphids are tiny soft-bodied insects. Most often, you will see black or green aphids, but they can be almost any color. This is because there are many different kinds of aphids on Earth – scientists have identified as many as 5000 different kinds of aphids. 

How to Identify Aphids 

Ladybug eating aphids

So how can we recognize an aphid? These tiny insects have a somewhat round, drop-like shape. They have 6 legs and a pair of antennas on their head. You may not always be able to see this with the naked eye, but a magnifying glass or camera zoom could help see the parts of the aphid better. 

What Makes Aphids Different From Ladybugs? 

  • Color. The first sign that could help us tell a ladybug and an aphid appart is the color. The ladybugs we usually see are red with black dots, but they can also be yellow, orange (and in rare occasions some other colors). They also don’t always have spots. Nevertheless, ladybugs are usually red. Aphids you see would most likely be green, black, or colorless. Ladybugs almost never come in these colors. 
  • Size. Both ladybugs and aphids are quite small, but aphids are almost always smaller than ladybugs. 
  • Shape. If you look at the picture above you’ll notice there is a big difference between the shape of the ladybug and the aphid. While they both have a somewhat round shape, the aphid is a soft-bodied insect while a ladybug has a hard shell formed by its wings. Aphids have wings too, but they are soft and usually not very noticeable. 
  • Behavior. Both aphids and ladybugs are often found walking on stems or leaves of plants. This should not surprise us considering that ladybugs eat aphids. However, usually you will see only one ladybug alone, while there will be many aphids. (ladybugs form swarms from time to time so sometimes it’s also possible to see many ladybugs in one place, but this occurrence is quite rare). 

Ladybugs vs Bees 

When we talk about bees, we usually think about honey bees. Honey bees have been kept by beekeepers for thousands of years because they produce honey. 

When you see a bee, there is a good chance you are seeing a honey bee. However, the honey bee is not the only bee in existence – there are actually more than 20,000 kinds of bees in the world. These include bumblebees (similar to bees but bigger) and many solitary bees. 

While honey bees form large societies and live in hives, solitary bees live alone. There are different types of solitary bees including mason bees and carpenter bees. Solitary bees come in different sizes and can sometimes be completely black. 

Today, we will focus mostly on the honey bee, as you are most likely to see this insect! 

How to Identify Bees 

Honey bees are approximately 1 cm long. Their bodies are covered with tiny hairs. They are black with yellow or brownish stripes on their bodies – which is how you can easily recognize them. Bees also have a pair of transparent wings that they use to fly. 

Honey bees have six pairs of legs and two antennas on their heads as well as two really big eyes. 

What Makes Bees Different from Ladybugs? 

  • Color. As we learned, ladybugs can be red, or sometimes orange or yellow. You might have noticed that the bee also has yellow stripes, but it is very different from the ladybug. The bee has stripes while the ladybug has dots. In addition, the wings of the bee are transparent.  
  • Size. Honey bees are approximately two times larger than ladybugs, on average. 
  • Shape. When you look at a ladybug, you will notice it appears smooth and round. A bee, on the other hand, is longer, and has two rounded parts of the body plus a head. Bees are also covered with tiny hairs so they are not shiny like a lady bug. 
  • Behavior. Most of the time when you see a ladybug, it will be resting or slowly walking around. Ladybugs can also fly, especially if you scare them, but they do not hover in the air. Bees, on the other hand, are usually seen flying. A bee will lend on a flower for a short period of time and then move on to the next one. Bees usually don’t spend a lot of time walking on the ground unless they are hurt. 
  • Sound. When a ladybug is flying, it does not create too much of a sound. When you see a bee flying, on the other hand, you will notice a buzzing sound. 

Ladybugs vs Butterflies 

Butterflies are fascinating creatures. They start out as eggs, then grow into caterpillars which can be quite large, only to transform into a beautiful butterfly in the end. 

There are around 20,000 different kinds of butterflies in the world. These pretty insects live a short life. Some species live only 2 days in the adult stage, while the most long-lived butterflies still live less than a year. 

Butterflies are colorful, beautiful, and harmless. They usually drink nectar from plants or other liquids and they sleep hidden on the backside of leaves. 

How to Identify Butterflies  

You’ll easily recognize a butterfly by his large, soft wings. These wings come in many colors and can be very gentle which is why you shouldn’t try to grab butterflies with your hands. 

Other than the huge wings, butterflies have a long body with 6 legs, two large eyes and two antennas on their head. 

What Makes Butterflies Different from Ladybugs? 

  • Color. While ladybugs are red with dots, butterflies are rarely solid red. If they are red, they will have intricate color patterns, similar to the butterfly on the picture above. 
  • Size. Although there are some tiny butterflies, they are usually much larger than ladybugs. 
  • Shape. Butterflies have large wings that they keep clasped together above their body when they are not flying. Their body is long and the wings have a flowy shape whereas the wings of a ladybug are round and hardened. 
  • Behavior. You will never see a butterfly walking around like a ladybug. They are either flying around from flower to flower or resting in one spot. 


Ladybugs are fascinating creatures and there is lots to learn about them once you scratch the surface. Here are some interesting articles about ladybugs from our website: 

Can ladybugs be yellow? 

Are ladybugs of a particular color poisonous?

Why do ladybugs have red and black spots? 

Do ladybugs bite or sting? 

For more interesting facts about ladybugs click here

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