Fascinating ladybird facts

Ladybird (northeastwildlife.co.uk)
7-spot ladybird hunting for aphids... (Photo: northeastwildlife.co.uk)

The weather’s starting to warm up, and that means ladybirds are beginning to emerge from their winter hiding places. We’ve some key questions on these cute little beetles and their behaviour, as well as some awesome facts!

How many types of ladybird are there?

The most common species is the bright red 7-spot ladybird. But did you know there are 46 types of ladybird in the UK?

Not all of them are red and spotty though – they come in orange, yellow, brown and black. Some even have stripes instead of spots! Keep your eyes peeled and see how many you can find with our Ladybird ID sheet.

A 14-spot ladybird on a yellow leaf.
Not your usual ladybird, this 14-spot is bright yellow with almost square spots. (Photo: Amy Lewis/WTML)

Ladybirds are good for gardens

Ladybirds love to eat aphids. In fact, they like them so much they can eat 5,000 aphids in a single year! This means gardeners love them as aphids can harm the plants they are growing. Don’t forget to thank the next ladybird you see in your garden.

Why are ladybirds spotty?

Ladybirds are brightly coloured and patterned to remind predators that they taste nasty. Not only do they look off-putting, but if a bird does dare disturb them, they release a tiny drop of liquid which smells horrid and contains a poison to remind those predators not to eat them. Don’t worry though – it won’t poison you!

Some birds like swifts and swallows, as well as some spiders and other insects, are immune to the poison, so they can eat ladybirds.

Why are ladybirds called ladybirds?

Ladybirds are thought to be named after the Virgin Mary. She is also known as Our Lady and usually wore a red cloak in paintings. This meant the bright red insects got nicknamed ladies!

How many spots do ladybirds have?

This depends on the species of ladybird! People used to think that the number of spots on a ladybird could tell you how old it was, but this isn’t true. Lots of ladybirds have useful names like 7-spot, 2-spot and even 22-spot, to tell you exactly how many spots they have.

7-spot ladybird on a green leaf
Count spots to find out which species of ladybird you've found, this one is a 7-spot! (Photo: Clare Topping/WTML)

Ladybird lifecycle

A ladybird’s lifecycle lasts one year, and it’s a busy one! It will go through lots of changes from egg to adult. This is called metamorphosis.

  1. In early spring ladybirds start to emerge from their winter snooze and look for food.
  2. In May they mate and lay their eggs. The eggs are yellow or orange and are stuck to the underside of leaves.
  3. In early summer each egg hatches into a little grub called a larva, which greedily feeds on aphids. It sheds its skin several times as it grows. In about four weeks it hardens into a pupa which protects the new ladybird as it develops.
  4. In August, the mature ladybird emerges from the pupa. The older generation is starting to die off now.
  5. By November the new ladybirds are starting to look for a sheltered place to sleep for the winter, all before the lifecycle starts again.

Have a look at our ladybird lifecycle iDial to find out more.

Keep exploring and support ladybirds

Why not carry on the ladybird fun with our ladybird colouring sheet or our ladybird potato stamp activity, we even have a simpler version for babies and toddlers. If you’re feeling adventurous you could have a crack at our lovely ladybird cake too.

Have a garden? Find out how to make it a haven for wildlife to support our fabulous native species.

Which ladybirds have you spotted?

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