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Gentle Ladybugs are Actually Cannibals

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Ladybug. Photo via Good Free Photos

The ladybug or ladybird is the perfect insect to help teach children to respect nature.

After all, ladybugs are cute insects, harmless to people, that come in a wide range of pretty colors. And they don’t flee from people: even young children can pick one up and hold it on a finger. Children’s books abound with pictures of friendly ladybugs, there are coloring books that feature them, educators talk about them in daycare and kindergarten and in addition, these nice insects eat the evil aphids that attack our garden plants. What a great story to tell!

Perhaps therefore it’s best not to burst your kid’s bubble by revealing that ladybugs are also cannibals.

Indeed, ladybugs will not hesitate to ingest one of their own if the opportunity presents itself. Examination of ladybugs caught in an American soybean field, for example, revealed residues of other ladybugs in half of the specimens.

Moreover, their cannibalism begins early.

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Ladybug larva. Photo: Mausy5043, Wikimedia Commons

Some species lay a mixture of fertile and infertile eggs. When the larva, which does not resemble the adult ladybug at all, but looks vaguely like a small alligator, is born and if it finds no other prey nearby (aphids, scale insects, mites, whiteflies, etc.), it will first eat an infertile egg to gain strength. Then, if the other larvae don’t disperse rapidly, it will eat them too. Even adults will readily eat larvae or even other adults when they have the opportunity.

Cannibal ladybugs? Who knew!20170328A.Good Free Photospng

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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