AppearanceThe spotted lady beetle is about six millimetres long, more flattened than most species of lady beetle, pink or red with six spots on each wing cover. The thorax is a similar shade of red with two large triangular black patches. The larvae resemble miniature alligators and are dark coloured. They have three pairs of legs and grow to about six millimetres long. The eggs are spindle shaped and laid upright in groups near potential prey.
BehaviorA female beetle may lay between 200 and 1,000 eggs in groups of 8-15 in protected sites on stems and leaves over a three-month period. The larvae actively seek out prey and may travel as far as twelve metres in their search for food. The larvae grow rapidly, moulting four times before attaching themselves by the abdomen to a leaf or other surface to pupate. The adult beetles emerge from three to twelve days later depending on the temperature. There are two to five generations per year. This species is most abundant in September when they congregate before mating and winter hibernation. They overwinter in large aggregations in leaf litter, under stones and in other protected sites at the edge of fields and hedgerows. They emerge in spring and look for suitable prey and egg laying sites in nearby crops, often dispersing by walking along the ground.
HabitatThese lady beetles can be seen wherever the insects on which they prey are found. Crops which support aphid populations include wheat, sorghum, sweet corn, alfalfa, soybeans, peas, beans, cotton, potatoes, brassicacious crops, tomatoes, asparagus and apples. Besides aphids, they include in their diet adelgids, mites, insect eggs and small larvae. They also eat pollen which may constitute up to 50% of their food intake, nectar, water and honeydew. When normal prey is scarce, both adults and larvae sometimes exhibit cannibalistic tendencies, eating eggs, larvae and pupae of their own species.
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