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The Instars of “A Lady”(bug)

by Jo Angelos, Tri-City Rose Society

(Ellie is the young aspiring gardener and rosarian-in-training who lives next door)

Everyone can recognize and appreciate the cute little beetles we identify as “Ladybugs.” They may be the first garden bug we recognize in pictures and in gardens when we are children. Ellie and I have done some investigating this month and we hope to provide some fun facts you may not know about these ladies.

The first step in the identification of ladybug larvae is recognize the eggs and the hatching larvae.

The eggs (1, 2) hatch (3) within a week. The larval stage is 2-3 weeks. The larva will attach itself to a leaf and pupate (4), This stage depends on the temperature and takes three days to two weeks for the adult to emerge (5). The instar cycle is 4-8 weeks depending upon the species and environmental variables. The newly emerged ladybug is pale, golden and wet, with no spots for the first 24 hours.

As for the name, ladybug or ladybird? Citations for Ladybird date back to 1674 and for Ladybug from 1699. This website tells us, “there’s also an entry for Lady-bird dating back to the 1590s, meaning ‘sweetheart‘, a term of endearment, from lady + bird. The use of the first word was indeed Ladybird in the 1870’s. Ladybug was used from around 1900, but both words have been in use since.”

Look carefully before you spray pesticides! The last thing you would want to do is kill these extremely harmless and beneficial garden allies. Each of these garden sweethearts consume hundreds of aphids.

Ellie with Me

Another day in the garden, and we are finding many, many, many aphids! Ellie has learned the gardener’s way of sighing disgustedly when she sees a rose inundated with the critters. She grabs the hose and initiates the “aphid removal shower!”

This girl has always been fascinated and appreciative of ladybugs and can spot one in an instant, but today we took a deeper look into the growing garden for an expanded education on the ladybug larvae, what they look like and what they “do” to become the familiar lady of the garden. In the photo to the left, she spotted the larva in the in the next photo (below)!

As we talked about the “instar” (growth between molts) of the ladybug larvae, the discussion took a turn toward what a molt was. By definition —“to cast or shed feathers, skin or the like that will be replaced by new growth.”

After some thought, she said, “Oh, like my front teeth! They came out and I will get new ones soon!” (She is confident new ones will grow because the lower ones came out and the new ones are growing in strong!)

Ellie enjoys wearing dresses and often is found in the garden wearing one. Her parents have taught her the importance of being a lady, and the Disney princesses give her dance moves with her flowing dresses and a desire to sing to the world—at least to everyone in earshot! This girl can sing! And dance! Even during our potato planting (photo on left), there was song!

Our conversation continued with the idea that the “lady” bugs we were finding were all girls. “Come on, they are called a ‘lady”!” She was certain I should understand that. Why would anyone give that name to something that wasn’t a lady? While I could not answer that question, I could assure her there were daddies, too. Most of our ladybug and larvae finds and photos were the 7 spot Ladybugs. Some of the larvae were very elongated like our photo, but some were very plump—same markings just very round—hopefully full of aphids!

Instar which is “an insect in any one of its periods of postembryonic growth between molts” is all about development before the emerging adult. As Ellie continues her Instar growth between molts of teeth, changes in hairstyles and eventually teenage physical and emotional growth, I hope to watch her transformation into a beautiful, compassionate, well-informed “lady”- one who continues to sing and dance into the lives and hearts of all those she meets.


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