November 18, 2013 9:07:52 AM
Ladybugs swarmed by the thousands. They whirled around the porch ceiling; they crawled on the side of the house, the garage, the boat shed. Ladybugs landed on our arms. When one took flight, three took its place. Fortunately they were outside the house, though on occasion a few sneaked in. They are such pretty, delicate little creatures.
Indoors I place my ladybugs on plants. If there are any aphids there, she will take care of them. Ladybugs eat only aphids, not plants, paper or clothing.
A little research on ladybugs shows they are not all ladies; obviously there are male ladybugs. The female appears slightly larger than the male, but only an entomologist can tell the difference. Ladybugs come in droves during the warm fall days. They are looking for places to hibernate. Ladybugs hibernate in groups. While hibernating, ladybugs feed on their own body fats, which must be precious little. Ladybugs need humidity, and since our home is not humid in the winter, I'm afraid most of them will expire. If you find ladybugs annoying, you can "shop vac" the beetles (ladybugs are actually beetles) and empty them outside.
Hopefully this year's crop of ladybugs found their hibernating places before temperatures plummeted into the 20s. If not the frigid weather for the poor ladybug, there are predators.
According to ladybug-life-cycle.com there are a number of predators, from birds to tree frogs. However, the ladybug does have some protection. Nature has a warning system. Red is danger, something to be avoided, while green is tasty. The colors red, yellow, orange and black warn of poison, bad taste or a strong defense. Ladybugs will "play dead" by pulling their legs in like a turtle; they also excrete a small amount of blood that has a bad smell.
If you have little ones asking for a pet, the ladybug might be just the ticket. You can keep ladybugs in a bug box or terrarium. Put some foliage in the container and keep it moist or place a damp paper towel in the box. Ladybugs will survive on moistened raisins or other sweet fruits. This will keep your ladybug going until spring when you can release her.
Your child may be the only kid on the block with a pet ladybug. If you can't find your own ladybugs they have kits you can order, even kits that will take you through the whole life cycle from egg, larva, pupa and adult. Ladybugs could be a unique Christmas gift for a child and a gift to your garden in the spring -- a gift that keeps on giving.
There are many myths about ladybugs. Some say if one lands on you and you count the number of spots, you will soon receive dollars in the same amount, or that's the number of children you will have, or less than seven spots mean this year's crops will be good.
Shannon Rule Bardwell is a Southern writer living quietly in the Prairie.