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These tiny predators are usually very welcome in gardens because ladybug larvae and adults eat aphids, mealybugs, and mites (which are garden pests). Ladybug larvae can eat about 25 aphids a day; adults can eat over 50. There are about 5,000 different species of ladybugs throughout the world. A common species is the two-spotted ladybug; it is orange red with one black spot on each wing cover.
Ladybugs are winged insects (a type of beetle). When they are not flying, the flight wings are covered and protected by a pair of modified wings (called elytra). When flying, the elytras open up, allowing the wings to move. The area above the elytra is called the pronotum (it is part of the thorax). The pronotum frequently has grayish spots on it. The head of the ladybug is very tiny (and frequently confused with the pronotum). Females are larger than males.
Like all insects, ladybugs have:
The ladybug, like all beetles, undergoes a complete metamorphosis during its life. The life stages of the ladybug are: egg --> larva --> pupa --> adult.
Female ladybugs lay tiny eggs, usually laid in a small mass (fertilization is internal). The larvae that hatches from the egg is small and long and has 6 legs. As it rapidly grows, the larva molts (sheds its skin) several times. After reaching full size, the larvae attaches itself to a plant leaf or stem (by its "tail"). The larval skin then splits down the back, exposing the pupa. The pupa is about the size of the adult but is all wrapped up, protecting the ladybug while the it undergoes metamorphosis into its adult stage. This last stage in the metamorphosis takes a few days.
LADYBUGS ON THE SPACE SHUTTLE
Four ladybugs were sent into space in 1999 on NASA's space shuttle led by Eileen Collins. Ladybugs and their main food, aphids, were sent to a zero-gravity environment to study how to aphids could get away from the ladybugs without being able to jump using gravity.
According to the STS-93 Pilot Jeffrey S. Ashby, "One of the experiments that I do understand well, and is also very interesting, is an experiment that involves aphids and ladybugs. We are taking a small container with some leaves and aphids, and the ladybugs that are their prime predator. I'm told that the ladybugs on Earth will climb up a stalk to capture the aphids, and the aphids will use gravity to assist them to fall off of the leaf to escape from the ladybug. The question is, how will these defense mechanisms work in the absence of gravity, and what will happen to the relationship between predator and prey? One of the things that extra time has allowed us to do is to come up with names for the four ladybugs that we have. I think they have been very appropriately named after The Beatles: John, Paul, Ringo, and George. We're taking these ladybugs up and we're going to release them and see what they do."
Results of the Experiment: Upon completion of the mission, it was determined that the ladybugs survived and did eat the aphids while in a microgravity environment. Ladubugs do very well in space!
Links about the ladybug/Space Shuttle experiment:
Ladybugs in Space from the LEO program, Launching Education into Orbit.
The ladybug experiment
Kingdom Animalia (animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (arthropods)
Class Insecta (insects)
LADYBUG CRAFTS AND ACTIVITIES:
An easy-to-make ladybug costume that is made from a large paper grocery bag.
|Paper Plate Ladybug Puppet
A ladybug puppet made from two paper plates.
|Egg Carton Ladybug
Make a ladybug from an egg carton.
Ladybug Life Cycle Book
A short printable shape book for early readers about the life cycle of a ladybug, with pages on the eggs, larva, pupa, and adult ladybug.
A printout on the ladybug (just the image).
Color a ladybug and learn about it.
Ladybug Life Cycle Diagram
See how a ladybug larva hatches from a tiny egg, becomes a pupa and then turns into an adult.
Ladybug Read-and-Answer Quiz
Read the text, then answer the questions. Or go to the answers.
Ladybug Theme Page (K-3)
Crafts, information, and coloring printouts.
Ladybug Life Cycle Sequencing Cards
Cut out the four scenes and arrange them so they show the life cycle of the ladybug from egg to adult as it undergoes complete metamorphosis.
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