There are over 4,000 species of ladybugs around the world. There are almost 500 species of ladybugs in North America. California is home to 175 species of ladybugs. England, by contrast, has only 46 species of ladybugs (but they all have great accents). The majority of ladybugs overwintering in Redwood Regional are of the species Hippodamia convergens, or Convergent Ladybugs.
Humans refer to a quantity of ladybugs as a loveliness of ladybugs. Aphids do not agree with this, but that’s because ladybugs eat aphids. Ladybugs can eat up to 75 aphids a day or some 5,000 in their lifetime. Aphids call groups of ladybugs The Red Menace. (Aphids aren’t too bright because ladybugs come in many colors and are really more like socialists. Anyway...) Ladybugs call groups of aphids lunch. I call the ladybugs of Redwood Regional legions of ladybugs.
But how do ladybugs find aphids? While under attack by predatory insects, plants give off a pheromone. To ladybugs, this is basically the bat signal. Using their antennae to "tune in" for the distinct aphid alert, ladybugs fly to the distressed plant and eat like at a Vegas buffet. Ladybugs also tune in to 80s new wave and a little bit of J-POP.
Blah blah blah Darwinism, ladybugs have their own predators. That “cute” spotted and/or bright shell warns birds, dragonflies, frogs, and spiders of ladybugs’ distastefulness. While true that ladybugs can make crude and tasteless jokes, “distastefulness” refers to the actual palatability of ladybugs, which is reported to be quite unpleasant. When threatened, a ladybug will secrete a foul-tasting substance from its leg joints. Scientists call this “reflex blood,” but I prefer “ladybug mace.”
The lifespan of an adult ladybug is typically between three and nine months (depending on the time of year and food available), though there are documented cases of ladybugs living for up to three years. Not all ladybugs are ladies. Many are tramps. Others are gentlemen. Redwood Regional is like the playa, and ladybugs arrive every Fall for an overwintering orgy.
It’s not really known why ladybugs return to the same spots in Redwood Regional each year, but common sense will tell you that Oakland is the new Brooklyn and ladybugs are hip as hell. Like other beetles (and butterflies), ladybugs go through a complete metamorphosis with distinct egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. In winter, adult convergent ladybugs gather en masse and use foliage, downed trees, and each other to keep warm. During these months, the forest seems even more alive with the undulating pile-ups. On bright, sunny days, you can see them mating. Ladybugs are not shy.