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Ladybug heaven was…

…our aphid-infested herb garden.

Last week, we found a lady bug (AKA lady beetle, lady bird beetle) wandering around on the ground; we scooped her up and put her on a cilantro plant badly infested with aphids.  A few days later, the flower stalks of the plant were alive with the black-and-orange alligator-like larvae of the ladybug.  There were so many aphids on these stems, the larvae stuck around, pupated, and hatched into mint new beetles.  Here’s the process in photos (A & E Shock).

We didn’t think to look for eggs, so the first thing we saw was about two dozen larvae slurping up aphids on the cilantro plant.  In the picture on the right >>, the final instar of a larva (lower) is attaching itself to the stem in preparation of pupating.  The critter above it, which looks like a wrinkly beetle, is what it becomes: a pupa, waiting for the beetle inside to reach adulthood.

<< The next photo shows a newly-emerged adult beetle clinging to its empty pupal husk.  The unripe tomato color of its wings deepens as it dries, possibly in response to UV exposure.  Also, ghostly gray dots appear and darken along with the elytra.  The wings, pale yellow and transluscent, retract fully under the elytra, and the beetle is ready to trundle — or fly — off.

The photo below shows two empty pupal cases, the sun shining through them and split open like… well, like invertebrate pupal cases, abandoned where their larvae attached to the stem.

Finally, the familiar mature, deep red-orange, sun-spotted lady bugs spread out, looking for food and mates to start the cycle all over again (below).

Hard not to appreciate the aphids giving up their sticky little plant-sucking lives for such a delightful result.  And, thanks, ladybugs, for clearing out the thuggish aphids.  Not to anthropomorphize or anything…

Posted by Allison on May 15th 2010 03:44 pm | 4 Comments
| View close in,cool bug!,increments,Invertebrata,natural history,yard list category

4 Responses to “Ladybug heaven was…”

  1. sueon 16 May 2010 at 2:31 pm link comment

    checks and balances, checks and balances…

    great photos!

  2. The lady and the pearon 20 May 2010 at 7:12 pm link comment

    […] posts have been about lady bugs, and prickly pears.  Here’s one about both: a lady bug on an Opuntia blossom in the Mojave […]

  3. […] hapless aphids.  Pictures of the process of larval metamorphosis were captured  and posted here, but all the eggs had already hatched, leaving the beginning of the adventure undocumented. Now the […]

  4. […] the lady bug life cycle has been covered here before, I can’t resist posting this photo of a brand new Lady Bird Beetle and its recently exited […]

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