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Garden Allies: Lady Beetles

Articles: Garden Allies: Lady Beetles

There are those who do not really like insects, but it’s hard to find anyone who does not have a soft spot for lady beetles. Ladybugs, as they are more familiarly known, appear in legends, songs, and children’s stories; they are a popular decorative motif and are beloved by people around the world. Sue Hubbel, author of Broadsides from the Other Orders: A Book of Bugs, dubbed lady beetles “the panda of the insect world.” It is easy to believe that the phrase “cute as a bug” refers to the cheery, polka-dotted beetle. But, while even small children can recognize a typical lady beetle, few of us really know much about this gardener’s good friend.

Convergent lady beetle (Hippodamia convergens) Illustration: Craig Latker

In Phytologia, published in 1800, Erasmus Darwin, grandfather to Charles, may have been the first to write about the potential for the lady beetle to control aphids. Vedalia beetles, a coccinellid from Australia, were introduced to California citrus orchards in 1888 and were credited with saving the citrus industry, in less than one growing season, from the depredations of cottony cushion scal...

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