Adult Lady Beetles are round and small (1-10 mm) long. They are usually colored in some combination of black and red, orange, or yellow, and often have spots on their wing covers. Some species always have the same pattern of colors and spots, but in some species individual beetles can have very different colors. Lady Beetle antennae are short, shorter than the front legs, and are thicker at the ends than the middle. Lady Beetle larvae are also colored in some combination of black and red or orange. They are very active, and have rather rough or bumpy looking bodies that are longer than the adults. Lady Beetle pupae look somewhat like the adults. It is nearly impossible for anybody but experts to tell male Lady Beetles from female ones, and even the experts sometimes can't tell without dissecting the beetle. The bright colors of Lady Beetles are warnings to predators, because all Lady Beetles have toxic chemicals in their blood that makes them taste very bad.
Lady Beetles are found all around the world. There are hundreds of species of lady beetles in North America. Also over a hundred species have been transported between continents by people hoping they would eat aphids and other pests better than the native beetles do.
Lady Beetles live where their prey live. This means on plants, mostly herbs and bushes, but sometimes trees or even grass. Species that live in temperate climates with cold winters sometimes make short migrations to warmer habitats, and many spend the winter hiding under bark or in a crack or crevice.
Lady Beetles have the same life stages as other beetles (see More Information on the Beetle page). Lady Beetle larvae are more active than many other kinds of beetles. Lady Beetles spend the winter as adults, and lay their eggs in the following summer. The larvae eat a lot and grow fast, and emerge as adults in the late summer or fall.
Lady Beetles usually live less than two years.
As long as there are prey insects to eat, Lady Beetles will be there. They are active in the day if it is not too hot. In fall and winter Lady Beetles hibernate, sometimes in large groups.
Lady Beetle communicate with each other mainly with chemicals.
Most lady beetles are voracious predators. A large adult lady beetle can eat 60 aphids a day, and even a smaller larva might eat 25. In her lifetime, a female lady beetle might eat 2,500 aphids. Some lady beetles eat other kinds of small, soft-bodied insects that are related to aphids. A very few species eat fungal spores, and there are three species in North America that eat plants. One of them is a significant agricultural pest; it eats the leaves of bean plants. A few lady beetles eat pollen, especially early in the spring when there aren't many aphids to eat.
All lady beetles have "reflex bleeding." This means that when they are attacked they automatically leak some of their blood out from joints in their legs and other parts of their body. Their blood has toxic chemicals in it, and tastes bad to predators. Their bright colors are probably a warning to predators that they taste bad. Lady beetle larvae often go away from their food supply and hide to pupate. This may help them avoid other predators.
Some Lady Beetle species are important predators on aphids and other insects.
A very few Lady Beetles eat plants we grow for food. Also, Lady Beetles sometimes accidentally hibernate in people's houses or other buildings. A few Lady Beetles may bite, but mainly by accident (you have some chemical on you that tastes good) or to defend themselves. The bite is not dangerous and doesn't hurt much.
Nearly all Lady Beetle species eat insects that are pests. Sometimes Lady Beetles can be very helpful in controlling pests on farms and in gardens
No Lady Beetles species are legally protected, and most are abundant and don't need special conservation. However, some native species have been disappearing at the same time that species from othe continents have arrived or been released. The invaders may be pushing the natives out.
George Hammond (author), Animal Diversity Web.