AskDefine | Define ladybug

Dictionary Definition

ladybug n : small round bright-colored and spotted beetle that usually feeds on aphids and other insect pests [syn: ladybeetle, lady beetle, ladybird, ladybird beetle]

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English

Pronunciation

Alternative spellings

Noun

  1. any of the Coccinellidae family of beetles, typically having a round shape and a colorful shell. Also called ladybird or lady beetle. See Coccinellidae for more information.

Translations

beetle

Extensive Definition

Coccinellidae is a family of beetles, known variously as ladybirds (British English, Australian English, South African English), ladybugs (North American English) or lady beetles (preferred by some scientists). The family name comes from its type genus, Coccinella. Coccinellids are found worldwide, with over 5,000 species described, more than 450 native to North America alone. Coccinellids are small insects, ranging from 1 mm to 10 mm (0.04 to 0.4 inches), and are commonly yellow, orange, or scarlet with small black spots on their wing covers, with black legs, head and antennae. A very large number of species are mostly or entirely black, gray, or brown and may be difficult for non-entomologists to recognize as coccinellids (and, conversely, there are many small beetles that are easily mistaken as such, like tortoise beetles).
Ladybirds are generally considered useful insects as many species feed on aphids or scale insects, which are pests in gardens, agricultural fields, orchards, and similar places. The Mall of America, for instance, releases thousands of ladybugs into its indoor park as a natural means of pest control for its gardens. Some people consider seeing them or having them land on one's body to be a sign of good luck to come, and that killing them presages bad luck. A few species are pests in North America and Europe.

Biology

Coccinellids are typically predators of Hemiptera such as aphids and scale insects, though members of the subfamily Epilachninae are herbivores, and can be very destructive agricultural pests (e.g., the Mexican bean beetle). They are also known to eat certain plants and crops when no other food is present, making them a possible pest to farmers and gardeners. While they are often used as biological control agents, introduced species of ladybirds (such as Harmonia axyridis or Coccinella septempunctata in North America) can outcompete and displace native coccinellids, and become pests in their own right.
Coccinellids are often brightly colored to ward away potential predators. This defense works because most predators associate bright colors (especially orange and black or yellow and black) with poison and other unpleasant properties. This phenomenon is called aposematism. In fact, most coccinellids are indeed poisonous to smaller predators, such as lizards and small birds; however, a human would have to eat several hundred coccinellids before feeling any effects. Adult coccinellids are able to reflex-bleed hemolymph from their leg joints, releasing their oily yellow toxin with a strong repellent smell. This becomes quite obvious when one handles a coccinellid roughly.
Most coccinellids mate in spring or summer and the female lays a cluster of eggs (numbering from a few to a few hundred, depending on species) as near as possible to an aphid colony. In most species these eggs hatch into a larval state within a week. This state lasts 10–15 days, and they then go into a pupal stage before becoming an adult coccinellid. The entire life cycle of the Coccinellid is only 4–7 weeks. Most ladybird species are univoltine, producing only one generation a year, although some are bivoltine.
Coccinellids lay extra infertile eggs with the fertile eggs. These appear to provide a backup food source for the larvae when they hatch. The ratio of infertile to fertile eggs increases with scarcity of food at the time of egg laying.
Some species are migratory and form large aggregations during the migratory period. They also form large aggregations when they go into hibernation in Winter.

Habitats

Most coccinellids are beneficial to gardeners in general, as they feed on aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, and mites throughout the year. As in many insects, ladybirds in temperate regions enter diapause during the winter, so they often are among the first insects to appear in the spring. Some species (e.g., Hippodamia convergens) gather into groups and move to higher land, such as a mountain, to enter diapause. Predatory ladybirds are usually found on plants where aphids or scale insects are, and they lay their eggs near their prey, to increase the likelihood the larvae will find the prey easily. Ladybirds are cosmopolitan in distribution, as are their prey.

Coccinellids as household pests

Although native species of coccinellids are typically considered benign, in North America the Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), introduced in the twentieth century to control aphids on agricultural crops, has become a serious household pest in some regions owing to its habit of overwintering in structures. It is similarly acquiring a pest reputation in Europe, where it is called the "Harlequin Ladybird" (see main article "Asian lady beetle" for discussion). Some ladybirds eat flies such as greenflies and smaller insects.

Coccinellids in popular culture

Coccinellids are and have for very many years been favorite insects of children. The insects had many regional names (now mostly disused) such as the lady-cow, may-bug, golden-knop, golden-bugs (Suffolk); and variations on Bishop-Barnaby (Norfolk dialect) - (Barney, Burney) Barnabee, Burnabee, and the Bishop-that-burneth.
The ladybird is immortalised in the still-popular children's nursery rhyme Ladybird, Ladybird:
Many variants exist, including one that seems ancient (recounted in an 1851 publication):
The name that the insect bears in the various languages of Europe is mythic. In this, as in other cases, the Virgin Mary has supplanted Freyja, the fertility goddess of Norse mythology; so that Freyjuhaena and Frouehenge have been changed into Marienvoglein, which corresponds with Our Lady's Bird. The esteem with which these insects are regarded has roots in ancient beliefs. In Irish, the insect is called bóín Dé — or "God's little cow"; similarly, in Croatian it is called Božja ovčica ("God's little sheep"). In France it is known as bête à bon Dieu, "the Good Lord's animal",
In parts of Northern Europe, tradition says that one's wish granted if a ladybird lands on oneself (this tradition lives on in North America, where children capture a ladybird, make a wish, and then "blow it away" back home to make the wish come true). In Italy, it is said by some that if a ladybird flies into one's bedroom, it is considered good luck. In central Europe, a ladybird crawling across a girl's hand is thought to mean she will get married within the year. In some cultures they are referred to as lucky bugs (Turkish: uğur böceği).
In Russia, a popular children's rhyme exists with a call to fly to the sky and bring back bread; similarly, in Denmark a ladybird, called a mariehøne ("Mary's hen"), is asked by children to fly to 'our lord in heaven and ask for fairer weather in the morning'.
In Greece, ladybirds are called πασχαλίτσα (paschalitsa), because they are found abundantly in Eastertime, along with paschalia, the Common Lilac plant, which flowers at the same time.
In Malta, the ladybird is called nannakola, and until a few years ago little children sang: Nannakola, mur l-iskola/Aqbad siġġu u ibda ogħla (Ladybird go to school, get a chair and start jumping).

Gallery

References

ladybug in Catalan: Marieta
ladybug in Czech: Coccinellidae
ladybug in Danish: Mariehøne
ladybug in German: Marienkäfer
ladybug in Estonian: Lepatriinulased
ladybug in Spanish: Coccinellidae
ladybug in Esperanto: Kokcinelo
ladybug in French: Coccinellidae
ladybug in Galician: Maruxiña
ladybug in Korean: 무당벌레과
ladybug in Croatian: Bubamare
ladybug in Ido: Kocinelo
ladybug in Indonesian: Kepik
ladybug in Italian: Coccinellidae
ladybug in Hebrew: מושיתיים
ladybug in Latvian: Mārīšu dzimta
ladybug in Lithuanian: Boružės
ladybug in Hungarian: Katicabogarak
ladybug in Dutch: Lieveheersbeestjes
ladybug in Japanese: テントウムシ
ladybug in Norwegian: Marihøner
ladybug in Polish: Biedronkowate
ladybug in Portuguese: Joaninha
ladybug in Quechua: K'uslulu
ladybug in Russian: Божьи коровки
ladybug in Slovak: Lienkovité
ladybug in Sundanese: Kukuyaan
ladybug in Finnish: Leppäkertut
ladybug in Swedish: Nyckelpigor
ladybug in Thai: แมลงเต่าทอง
ladybug in Vietnamese: Bọ rùa
ladybug in Turkish: Uğur böceği
ladybug in Ukrainian: Сонечка
ladybug in Chinese: 瓢蟲
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