Spotted Lady Beetle (Coleomegilla maculata)

by Michael Holmes

There are more kinds of insects on Earth than there are of any other kind of animal. It is estimated that 95 per cent of all animal species are insects, most of which have not yet been identified by scientists. You could spend your entire life seeking out different kinds of insects, but you would never see them all.

ladybeetle.jpgLast month I wrote about ants. Here is another insect that you can find around our co-op: spotted lady beetle.

When people think of a lady beetle (a.k.a. ladybug, ladybird), the image that typically comes to mind is probably not that of the Spotted Lady Beetle. The popular image of a lady beetle is usually that of the Coccinella species, like the round and bright red Seven-spotted Lady Beetle (C. septempunctata) introduced from Europe.

Many lady beetles have been introduced into North America, either intentionally as biological pest controls or accidentally. The Seven-spotted Lady Beetle ("C-7") was repeatedly introduced to reduce aphid numbers in North America. The now common Multicoloured Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) was brought from Asia into the United States where it spread rapidly, reaching Ontario in 1994.

As introduced species have firmly established themselves in North America they have displaced many native species. However, native species remain and the most common of these is the Spotted Lady Beetle, sometimes referred to as the Pink Spotted Lady Beetle or the Twelve-spotted Lady Beetle. They can be recognized by their pinkish colour, multiple black spots, and oval bodies.

Spotted Lady Beetles wait out the winter months in aggregations beneath the leaf litter, emerging in early spring as the snow melts away. Early-flowering plants provide an important food source of pollen for them at this time. Dandelions are particularly popular with Spotted Lady Beetles, offering a feast of protein-rich pollen early in the season.

Later in the year the Spotted Lady Beetles will move on to feed on aphids.

There are almost 500 species of lady beetles in North America. Most of these are beneficial insects like the Spotted Lady Beetle, feeding on aphids or other pests that damage crops and garden plants. Some species of lady beetles, including the Spotted Lady Beetle, have been made commercially available to help gardeners keep down pest numbers.

Next time you pass a patch of flowering dandelions, stop and see if you can spot a Spotted Lady Beetle!