16 October 2007

Ladybird Lifecycle

Posted in nature at 11:46 am by Tricia

Last spring, we collected some tadpoles and watched them turn into toads. I documented the various stages of growth in a photoset that is available on Flickr.

Then last Monday, we were collecting invertebrates to give the classroom support staff on our project some experience with the curricular activities. Underneath one of the maple trees, I found a veritable treasure trove of ladybird beetle (aka ladybug) larvae, feasting on an abundance of aphids. Harkening back to my tadpole experience of the spring, I decided to collect some and watch them go through their metamorphosis. I also took some in to Z-boy’s class, because their science and social study units both currently focus on life stages.

Ladybird Lifecycle

This photo shows three of the life stages together (more photos at Flickr). The black and orange thing at the top (and the thing disappearing under the edge of the leaf) is a larva (like the caterpillar stage in a butterfly). Right in the middle of the photo is a pupa (similar to cocoon/chrysalis). The bottom right is an adult ladybird beetle. I’m not sure exactly when the adults emerged, because I didn’t check much over the weekend, but obviously it was before today! These are all the multi-colored Asian lady beetle species (scientific name: Harmonia axyridis).

I went to get more aphids to feed the larva yesterday, and found two more larvae of different sizes. I’m going to try to keep better track of when they hit the different stages.

Even though I know they’re not “dead” or anything, I’ve always assumed that pupae would stay still. So imagine my surprise when I saw them doing “pushups” – raising up the end that is not attached to the leaf. (Maybe headstand would be a more appropriate term?) Sometimes the end stays raised for minutes at a time, sometimes it happens quickly, sometimes in happens multiple times in fast succession. I have no idea what this is, and my brief web search is not revealing any scientific explanation. The largest of the larvae has stopped moving and started doing this same hind end lifting thing – maybe it’s about to pupate? Hmmm, maybe I should get out the video camera…



  1. […] jonskifarms wrote a fantastic post today on “Ladybird Lifecycle”Here’s ONLY a quick extractI also took some in to Z-boy’s class, because their science and social study units both currently focus on life stages. Ladybird Lifecycle. This photo shows three of the life stages together (more photos at Flickr). … […]

  2. MizD said,

    I’m so glad I did a little research into the stages of ladybugs a while back. We had the larvae all over our hops early this summer, and had I not known what they were I might have done something Very Bad. They certainly don’t look anything like what I thought a ladybug larva would look like. Their “pushups” and “headstands” remind me of Tuck and Roll from A Bug’s Life, which makes me smile.

  3. Hana said,

    yeah can u tell me more bout lady birds
    please and thanks

    Hana x x

  4. Rebecca said,

    i love ladybirds and want to know more
    is there any relitives of lady birds?
    can lady birda actually be posionis?
    does how many spots on a lady bird tell you how many years old they are?
    thanks alot
    yours sincerly Rebecca

  5. jonskifarms said,

    Hana and Rebecca, you can learn more about ladybird beetles here:


    There are hundreds of species of lady beetles. Read the “What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?” to find out about toxicity. I suspect the spots do NOT tell you anything about age, because the ones I raised from larvae all had different number of spots. The one at the top of this page that has ~18 spots – that one is at most a day “old” (as an adult ladybug).

  6. Christina O'Brien said,

    In searching for answers to some ladybug lifecycle questions after finding dozens of adult, larval and pupal Asian Lady Beetles on a rock, your marvelous photos of pupal color changes turned up on my internet search. Thank you for solving some of my questions! May I use the photo series in an occasional nature column that I write for a small number of friends and relatives?
    I too am wondering about the “pushups”, which both creamy and black-and-orange pupae were doing; am assuming it’s defensive but can’t imagine how they work out the mechanics in the middle of pupation. Isn’t nature wonderful?!

    Thank you in advance –
    Christina O’Brien
    Boise, ID

    • Tricia said,

      Hi Christina, you are welcome to use the photo as long as you credit me. I’d be interested in reading the column – especially silly if you find any answers about those push-ups!

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