Most species of ladybugs, also called lady beetles, are brick red or orange with black markings, but they may also be black with red markings. Larvae look like miniature alligators and live up to their appearance by being voracious predators of many garden pests, including aphids, mites, and other small insects.
Though ladybug larvae are the most voracious eaters, adults also consume pests. Most ladybugs prefer aphids over other food sources, but if aphids are scarce they will feed on other small insects and eggs, as well as pollen and nectar. In a pinch they’ll even feed on their own young. The fact that ladybugs have a diverse range of food sources makes them particularly valuable as beneficial insects.
Ladybugs overwinter as adults, often clumped together in hedgerows, beneath leaf litter, under rocks and bark, and in other protected places including buildings. There are more than 450 species of ladybugs in North America. Some are native and some have been introduced from other countries. The multicolored Asian lady beetle can be a nuisance when it overwinters in large numbers indoors; it also will prey on native lady beetles as well as pest insects.
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