Ladybug… ahem, lady beetle

For obvious reasons, I talk about bumblebees a lot.  For rather distressing reasons, the conversation often turns to the mysteries of jet-setting parasites and intercontinental gene flow.  Sometimes it seems like these are forces that operate in the background, either by agricultural mistake or in somebody’s unscreened ballast water, but this week’s bugs (yes, beetles) are reminders that species invasion can take place right out in the open.

 

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These attractive little killers represent two major stages in the life of a lady beetle.  If you’re a gardener trying to keep your roses free of aphids, these two are your friends.  (Especially the prickly-looking one.  The shiny adult is a flighty beast, but the larva will stay on your rose bush and get the job done.)

The interesting thing about them is that they’re both invaders.  The larva is Harmonia axyridis, the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, and the adult is Coccinella septempunctata, the Seven-spotted Lady Beetle.  The first is an Asian import (as you might guess from the name.)  The second is European.

There are native lady beetles in Western Washington, but I don’t see many in my neighborhood.  Apparently they’re harder to raise in bulk than the imports, and so the local gardeners have pushed the natives out, at least to the suburbs.  (I may have contributed to the problem myself, at one point.  <embarrassed cough>)

The natives are still around, just not around here.  They hibernate in huge aggregations up in the mountains.  Next Spring, I may go up and try to get pictures of one.

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