Would you believe that not all ladybugs are ladies? It’s true! In fact, they’re not even bugs. What’s going on here?

Ladybugs are actually insects known as beetles. They are from the scientific family Coccinellidae. True “bugs” are insects, such as cicadas and aphids, that are members of the scientific order Hemiptera.

Just like other insects, there are both male and female ladybugs. Do the guys mind being called “ladybugs”? Since they don’t speak our language, we suppose not.

Ladybugs are also known as “ladybirds” or “lady beetles.” So how did the term “lady” get attached to these insects? Many people believe the term “lady” refers to the Virgin Mary, who is often referred to as “Our Lady.”

The Virgin Mary was often portrayed wearing a red cloak in early paintings. Scholars believe European farmers came up with the term “Beetle of Our Lady” after they prayed to the Virgin Mary to save their crops from pests and noticed that a tiny red beetle came to eat the insects hurting their crops.

There are about 5,000 different species of ladybugs around the world, with more than 450 species in the United States. Although they come in many different colors and patterns, the most familiar in the United States is the seven-spotted ladybug. Its shiny red and black body is easily recognized by most children.

Ladybugs are considered good luck in many cultures. Gardeners like them especially for the same reason as those European farmers from long ago: Ladybugs eat aphids and other pests that eat plants. A single ladybug can eat as many as 5,000 insects in its lifetime.

Ladybugs can also be eaten. Birds, as well as frogs and spiders, prey on ladybugs. A ladybug’s special coloring, however, does help to give it some protection.

A ladybug’s distinctive coloring and markings tell predators to avoid it because it will taste terrible. And it’s true!

A ladybug can secrete a fluid from its legs when threatened. The fluid is oily and tastes terrible. Over time, predators learn to associate the bad taste with the ladybug’s bright colors and markings.

 

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    • That’s an interesting story, Kailee! Thank you so much for sharing it! Sometimes, bugs get lost and want to hang out inside our houses. :-(

    • Hello, Jay Jay! Just like with other insects, there are both male and female ladybugs. Ladybugs aren’t poisonous to humans, but they can taste pretty awful to predators! They secrete a bad-tasting fluid from their legs when they feel threatened, so most predators learn that ladybugs aren’t the best thing to eat! :-)

    • You have LOTS, LOTS, LOTS of friends here in Wonderopolis, Samantha! We think you are awesome and we really appreciate your comments! Thank you for visiting this Wonder and leaving us a message to let us know you stopped by! :-)

  1. Some ladybugs are disappearing! Kids can help ladybugs by uploading a picture of any ladybug they find to the Lost Ladybug Project website. To learn more and see lots of ladybug pictures go to lostladybug.org!

    • Thank you for letting us know about the plight of some ladybugs. We checked out your website and bet that many of our Wonder Friends would like to visit. We appreciate you spending some time WONDERing with us at Wonderopolis today! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Are all ladybugs ladies?
  • Why are they called “ladybugs”?
  • Does a ladybug’s coloring serve a purpose?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Do you love ladybugs? Here are some fun ladybug-related things you can do in the kitchen, at the table or at the computer:

 

Still Wondering

Check out Illuminations’ fun Ladybug Adventures lessons to learn more about numbers, measurement and geometry!

 

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