What Do Ladybirds Eat? (This Will Surprise You)

  • By: CarlBroadbent
  • Time to read: 7 min.
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While most insects are a nuisance due to their destructiveness and harmfulness, many people find ladybugs adorable and approachable.

Why? These insects have an attractive appearance, typically a red shell with little black spots. 

Because of their beauty, some people keep ladybirds as pets.

This gives kids and other family members a first-hand opportunity to observe the life cycle of the organism, besides being a fun activity.

Whether in the wild or kept as a pet, the ladybirds eat small insects, fungi, fruits, etc. However, the specific meal depends on the insect’s species.

Do Ladybirds Eat Aphids?

Aphids are undoubtedly the favorite meal for most types of ladybirds. Usually, adult females lay eggs near a food source, with the preferred option being aphids.

This ensures that larvae never starve until they are fully matured. 

Avoid drowning aphids from your plants
Aphids

The ladybird nymph (an immature larva) spends several weeks feeding on aphids before emerging as an adult.

Before pupating, a nymph consumes an estimated 400 aphids over a three-week period.

This behavior continues until they exhaust their two-year average lifespan.


As a Result: By eating aphids, ladybirds save farmers from what could be a substantial loss. This explains why most gardeners are friendly to these insects.


Are Ladybirds Cannibalistic? 

Can a ladybird eat one of its kind? Yes, it can, particularly if it’s a Harmonia Axyridis, popularly known as the Asian Lady Beetle or the Harlequin Ladybird.

This species originated from East Asia but is now widespread in many parts of the worlds.

Are ladybugs cannibalistic
Ladybirds

Due to its similarity to the native ladybird, it isn’t easy to tell them apart.

The Harlequin Ladybird likes eating and often resorts to extreme measures to survive.

Indeed, studies show that this species’ voracious appetite poses a threat to biodiversity.

That said, the most vulnerable species to Harlequin Ladybirds’ tendency to overfeed are ladybirds.

This is because the two compete for food, a fight that the Harmonia Axyridis usually wins.


Even Worse: the Harlequin feeds on the native ladybirds when aphid supplies reduce, specifically targeting the eggs and smaller larvae of their sister species. 


Do Ladybirds Eat Eggs?

As mentioned above, ladybird eat other ladybird’s eggs. However, they are not limited to their species. They do eat eggs laid by other insects, provided they’re soft, nutritious and easily accessible.

Here are some of the insects whose eggs get eaten by ladybirds.

Corn Borer

The Corn Borer is a moth species native to Europe that has since spread to North America, especially Canada and the United States.

It lays eggs that have a similar appearance to a ladybird’s, which explains why the latter feeds on them.

Colorado Potato Beetle

Although a ladybird doesn’t feed on the parent, it finds the eggs of a Colorado Potato Beetle delicious.

The Beetle is an abundant species in the US, having originated from Mexico. 

Butterflies

Before they morph into caterpillars, butterflies often lay their eggs in clusters on the lower surface of leaves.

Butterfly foods
Beautiful butterfly

For this reason, an attack from ladybirds seems inevitable. 

Butterfly eggs usually vary in size and shape, but they’re still a source of food for ladybirds when aphids aren’t available. 

Moths

Due to their closeness to butterflies, moth eggs are also a delicacy to ladybugs.

They’re a reliable source of protein to the insect.

What about Larvae?

Similar to other predators, ladybirds target what they can defeat.

This means that smaller ladybirds are more likely to experience hunger due to their size limitations.

This principle usually applies when it comes to larvae – ladybirds can eat the while they’re still small, but once they grow, it becomes impossible. 

Immature larvae (nymphs) get eaten by ladybirds because they’re small.

However, they’re at lesser risk of being preyed upon when they mature, usually a week after they morph. 

The following are some of the larvae that ladybirds eat.

Caterpillars

Ladybirds like feeding on caterpillars, especially the smaller varieties.

Oak Processionary Moth caterpillars are biting
Oak Processionary Moth caterpillars

These larvae are rich in protein, such hat a creature like a bird can survive an entire day by feeding on one caterpillar.

Corn Borer Larvae

The largest corn borer larva doesn’t exceed two centimeters, making it an easy target for ladybirds.

Moreover, it takes more than 50 days for the corn borer to undergo complete metamorphosis, a period in which ladybirds feast on them. 

However, the corn borer becomes less susceptible to predators once it establishes a breeding ground. 

Mites and Nymphs

Most mites have a body length that doesn’t go beyond a millimeter.

Because of this and their preferred habitat, which is plant-based material, ladybirds often feed on them. 

Nymphs, on the other hand, are small organisms that don’t undergo the pupa stage. Instead, they molt until they become adults.

This includes dragonflies, locusts, mayflies, etc. their small size means that they’re defenseless against predatory attacks from ladybirds.

Maggots

Ladybirds occasionally feed on fly maggots before they morph into flies, mainly because they’re small and like moving in clusters.

Moth Larvae

Like butterfly larvae, moth larvae are known as caterpillars.

However, these are less vulnerable to attacks because they are nocturnal creatures.

Other Insects Eaten by Ladybirds

Besides aphids, here are other insects eaten by ladybirds.

Spider Mites

Like aphids, spider mites usually live on the underside of leaves in large clusters.

Can Spider Mites Live on Humans?
Spider mites

That said, they’re smaller and have a body length of one millimeter, making them an easy target for ladybirds.

Scale Insects

Also called mealybugs, scale insects are common in areas with warmer climates.

These sapsuckers have largely unprotected bodies that increase their vulnerability to ladybird predatory attacks. 

Thrips

There are many types of thrips, including corn flies, corn lice, corn fleas, thunder blights, thunder flies, storm bugs, etc. all of them are small, barely exceeding a millimeter in body length.

One characteristic that makes them susceptible to attacks from ladybirds is their inability to fly well, despite having wings.

They clap and fling their wings when they want to move from one point to another. 

Chinch Bugs

Chinch bugs are tiny insects with an average body length of 1/6 inches.

They prefer tropical climates and are a common fixture in the region between southern Canada and Central America. 

Regarding appearance, Chinch Bugs have a red and brown body with a few white markings.

They like feeding on sap and grass, which is why they attack farms with barley, corn, oats, wheat and rye.


Pay Attention: If you see ladybirds in your garden, it’s likely that it has a Chinch Bug infestation. 


Do Ladybirds Eat Fruits?

Ladybirds eat fruits, albeit rarely. These insects see fruits as a supplement to their diet, rather than the primary source, which is insects.

If you’re keeping them as pets, it would best if you supplied fruit as an occasional treat. 

Ladybirds against pests
Ladybug

Some of the fruits that ladybirds eat include:

  • berries
  • dates
  • figs
  • grapes
  • nectarines
  • pears
  • peaches
  • plums, etc. 

Do Ladybirds Eat Vegetables?

Only a few ladybird species consume vegetables. These include the Epilachniane and the Henosepilachna.

Many farmers regard the former, also known as the Mexican Beetle, as a pest because it eats beans excessively. 

Do Ladybirds Eat Plant-based Material?

The following are some of the plant-based materials ladybirds eat.

Fungi and Mildew

Some types of ladybirds exclusively feed on plant-based material.

They have specialized mandibles that scrape fungi and mildew from tree trunks.

One species that eats fungi is the Illeis galbula. It has a yellow body with black marking and adults are about five millimeters in length.

Nectar and Pollen

Like fruits, nectar and pollen are supplements to insects.

Ladybirds like them because of their sweetness. They’re also a good source of vitamins.

Other Foods Eaten by Ladybirds

The following are some other foods eaten by ladybirds.

Honeydew

Honeydew is the byproduct excreted by insects like aphids and mealybugs. Despite not being sweet, ladybirds eat it.

Ladybug Habitat – Where Do Ladybugs Live?
Ladybug habitat

Aphids and mealybugs frequent ant farms because they afford them protection, and they give the ants honeydew in return.

Honey

Although ladybirds don’t seek honey actively, they eat it whenever they stumble on it.

Mostly, this is when you keep them as pets.

Because they’re small, ladybirds consume little amounts of honey.

What’s the Significance of Ladybirds’ Eating Habits?

As seen above, the preferred food for lady beetles are insects, such as aphids.

Since these are pests that destroy planted crops, ladybirds are useful to farmers. 


Additionally: You can keep ladybirds as pets, especially if you’re an insect enthusiast. This is an excellent way of studying their lives before releasing them to the wild.


Final Thoughts

These are a few of the things that ladybirds consume. Aphids are their most favorite meal, but they also feed on other insects and plant-based material.

Interestingly, these don’t eat during winter. Instead, they metabolize their body fat.

This is also the time they like hibernating in your home, where they don’t eat anything.

The problem with having ladybirds in your home is that the dust they leave may cause allergies.

When you touch them and rub your hands against your skin, you’ll develop itchiness. However, this doesn’t last for long. Even worse, they might bite you occasionally.

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