Why do ladybugs have red and black spots?

The spots present on a ladybug are to scare the predator away. These spots are usually in the combination of red and black or orange and black. This combination of colors is termed Aposematic coloration.

However, ladybugs are not the only insects with spots on their back some other insects also have spots on their body that serve the same purpose.

There’s a common myth that the number of spots on a ladybug will tell you about its age which is baseless. The arrangement and numbers of spots on the back of a ladybug would rather tell you about its species.

As there are around 5,000 different species and 360 genera of ladybugs, each of them carries the spots in a distinctive way and so tells about its species.

The ladybugs are commonly known as Coccinellidae in scientific language while Coccinellidae septempunctata is the scientific name of the most common ladybug, the seven-pot ladybird.

Their name, the ladybug is misunderstood, as they are beetles and not bugs. Bugs are the insects that feed on liquid-diet from plants while beetles feed on different plants and animals.

In this regard, ladybugs have been classified as beetles. The life span of a ladybug is around one year which can increase up to two or even three years.

Spots as a defense mechanism

Ladybugs are capable of producing a specific type of chemicals, which are alkaloids in nature, from their leg joints. This chemical in addition to spots on their back helps them in keeping the predator away.

The best way an insect can prevent being eaten up is by tasting gross and this is how the chemical from their joints serves its purpose.

When these tiny creatures feel the danger of being eaten up they discharge the liquid called hemolymph, a loathe yellow fluid, from their leg joints.

This response is termed as “reflex bleeding.” The foul smell thus prevents the predator (birds or frog etc) from eating the bug as this toxic smell makes them feel disgusted.

Ladybugs can be termed as poisonous in terms of the toxic chemical they release to prevent themselves from being ingested by birds or other predators. The color of a ladybug indicates how toxic they are. Darker bees tend to be more toxic than the ladybugs with relatively pale color.

The dark color on a ladybug can be considered as another defense mechanism and it is useful in their survival. Dark color gives the signal that they are toxic and thus predators stay away.

Ladybugs do not normally harm humans not even if a man has engulfed a bug or two. But eating them in a large amount can be dangerous to your health due to the toxic chemicals it releases from its leg joints.

Red ladybugs with black spots as the most common

Coccinella septempunctata, the Seven-spot ladybug is the most common in the UK. They were found in America in the mid-1900s. They are red having seven spots on its body. Its body is dome-shaped having six legs and seven spots at the back of the body.

The spots on its body are such that three spots are on either side of the body and one in the middle. They got a head which is black that has white patches on either side of the head.

Seven-spot ladybugs like other normal lady beetles feed on aphids and for this reason, they can be found most commonly in parklands, gardens, meadows, and the places where pests could be easily approached.

Their size ranges from 7.6-10.0 mm in length. An adult lady beetle grows up to 1cm. On one hand, their unique body-color patterns make them attractive and a sign of good luck for humans while they can be poisonous for its predators on the other hand.

Harmonia axyridis, the harlequin ladybug is another common type of ladybug which was introduced to the US in the 1980s and is now the most common ladybug in many parts of North America.

Facts about ladybirds:

Ladybirds ladybeetles or ladybird beetles are all the names of the same insect that are loved universally, commonly known as ladybugs. Although ladybugs are of both genders then why their name is specifically LADY? It’s because they are named after the one lady: the Virgin Mary.

A ladybug lays a large number of eggs but all of them do not hatch. Eggs that do not hatch serves the purpose of food unless the hatched larvae found aphids to feed on which is their main food.

Unhatched eggs are the tastiest food to the baby bugs given to them by their mum. Ladybugs are kept to decrease the number of pests in a garden. It has been estimated that a single ladybug can eat around 5,000 aphids in its lifetime. Besides aphids, they also feed on honeydew, nectar, pollen, etc.

There are almost 5,000 different species of ladybugs and they vary depending upon their color, patterns, and even the number of spots. This shows that not all ladybugs are red with black spots on them. However, they may be yellow-orange or a multitude of both.

A very less number of ladybugs can be blue, grey, pink, and black as well. The pattern on their bodies can be spots, stripes or they may have no marking at all. Even the larvae of different species are of different colors and patterns.

These cute little ladybugs are found to be most active in the summer season. They can be seen swaying around different places like cities, forests, lakes among which their favorite place is to flutter on the leaves.

As the weather turns cold, these little creatures look for cozy places to spend the rest of their winter. They usually hibernate in places like inside the rocks, logs, and even warm places in the houses where they can be found in the form of clusters and colonies.

Importance of ladybugs:

Ladybugs might seem a tiny little insect but it plays a vital role in maintaining the ecosystem. Nothing in this world is useless and this little creatures demonstrate this strongly.

These bugs are considered profitable in an area of crops and gardens. Ladybugs lay quite a large number of eggs in these places so that right after hatching, these larvae feed on aphids around.

Aphids have plagued the crops of farmers for centuries and in no way they could be terminated. Later on, humans found out where a ladybug is surviving there is no pest to be found. Keeping this in mind, people nowadays keep these tiny bugs in their gardens to grow plants safely.

This doesn’t mean that all ladybugs are superficially important in this matter. Although a large number of ladybugs feed on pests, some other species feed only on the fungal matter. Another species of these bugs eat only plant leaves.

Is there an evolutionary advantage to having this pattern?

Ladybugs are among the most lovable insects on the Earth mostly due to their unique color patterns among which spots are very common. They are loved by every other human but they are the dearest to the farmers as ladybugs wipe out pests from the garden by feeding on them.

Color patterns on any insect speak the volume of its defense mechanism. Color patterns are the signals for visual communication. These color patterns do have a genetic base even ecological, evolutionary; developmental bases of these patterns have also been identified.

Color patterns were easier to study in these lady beetles as they are having diverse patterns.

Body-color patterns serve their role in ecological interactions like courtship, reproduction, etc. These patterns are the result of natural selection. The color patterns in ladybugs are the result of genetic regulation.

After a great and thorough research on ladybugs that were collected from different parts of the world, an evolutionary geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky found out that the difference in color patterns of these ladybugs greatly depends upon various environmental factors, like climate, available food, etc.

Some other deep researches on these lady beetles tell about genetic bases for these colored patterns polymorphism. To find out how many loci are responsible for expressing the color on the beetles’ body, scientists crossed two ladybugs of different species.

It was then found out that a small number of loci are responsible for the color on the ladybugs’ bodies of different species. However, in some lady beetles single locus appeared to be responsible for its colors.

The above-explained experiments and their results show that the difference in the colors of different species of ladybugs is to their advantage. These colors are advantageous to them in terms of the environment they live in and help them to cope up with hazardous situations.

Ladybugs are indeed the most adorable tiny creatures given to us by Mother Nature. Relating it to any kind of fortune is pointless.

Thinking of it as a creature that brings fortune and killing it might bring bad luck to our way should be eluded from our culture, rather studying about its morphology and pondering deep into its structure would amaze you.

Reflecting on its self-defense mechanism will leave you in awe that how such a miniature critter can do so much.

If you want to learn more about various insects, then checkout our site categories, we have a bunch of articles there that are totally worth reading:



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Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/

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