2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Insects, Reptiles and Fish

Coccinella septempunctata
Coccinella septempunctata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Coleoptera
Superfamily: Cucujoidea
Family: Coccinellidae
Latreille, 1807

etc. see list of Coccinellidae genera

Pupal stage
Pupal stage
Early larva stage
Early larva stage
Mid-larva stage
Mid-larva stage
Coccinellids mating
Coccinellids mating

Coccinellidae is a family of beetles, known variously as ladybirds ( Commonwealth English), ladybugs ( North American English) or lady beetles (preferred by scientists). The word "lady" in the name is thought to allude to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Catholic faith. Coccinellids are found worldwide, with over 4,500 species described, more than 450 native to North America alone. Coccinellids are small insects, ranging from 1 mm to 10 mm (0.04 to 0.4 inches), and are usually yellow, orange, or red with small black spots on their carapace, with black legs, head and feelers. As the family name suggests, they are usually quite round in shape. Because they are useful, colourful, and harmless to humans, coccinellids are typically considered cute even by people who hate most insects. Some people consider seeing them or having them land on one's body to be a sign of good luck to come, and that killing them presages bad luck.


Coccinellids are brightly coloured to ward away potential predators. This defence works because most predators associate bright colours (especially orange and black or yellow and black) with poison and other unpleasant properties. This phenomenon is called aposematism. In fact, most coccinellids are indeed poisonous to smaller predators, such as lizards and small birds; however, a human would have to eat several hundred coccinellids before feeling any effects. Adult coccinellids are able to reflex-bleed from their leg joints, releasing their oily yellow toxin with a strong repellent smell. This becomes quite obvious when one handles a coccinellid roughly.

Most Coccinellids mate in the spring or summer, and the female lays a cluster of eggs (numbering from a few to a few hundred, depending on species) as near as possible to an aphid colony. In most species these eggs hatch into a larval state within a week. This state lasts 10-15 days, and they then go into a pupal stage before becoming an adult coccinellid. The entire life cycle of the Coccinellid is only 4-7 weeks.

Coccinellids lay extra infertile eggs with the fertile eggs. These appear to provide a backup food source for the larvae when they hatch. The ratio of infertile to fertile eggs increases with scarcity of food at the time of egg laying. (Perry & Roitberg, 2005)

Commercial use

Coccinellids are beneficial to organic gardeners because most species are insectivores, consuming aphids, fruit flies, thrips, and other tiny plant-sucking insects that damage crops. In fact, their name is derived from "Beetle of Our Lady", recognising their role in saving crops from destruction. Today, they are commercially available from a variety of suppliers.

In agriculture, coccinellids, like other beetles, can find protection in beetle banks.


Coccinellids are and have for very many years been favourite insects of children. The insects had many regional names (now mostly disused) such as the lady-cow, may-bug, golden-knop, golden-bugs ( Suffolk); and variations on Bishop-Barnaby (Barney, Burney) Barnabee, Burnabee, and the Bishop-that-burneth.

The ladybird is immortalised in the still-popular children's nursery rhyme Ladybird, Ladybird:

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home
Your house is on fire and your children are gone
All except one, and that's Little Anne
For she has crept under the warming pan.

Many variants exist, including one that seems ancient (recounted in an 1851 publication):

Dowdy-cow, dowdy-cow, ride away heame,
Thy house is burnt, and thy barns are tean,
And if thou means to save thy barns
Take thy wings and flee away!

The name which the insect bears in the various languages of Europe is clearly mythic. In this, as in other cases, the Virgin Mary has supplanted Freyja, the fertility goddess of Norse mythology; so that Freyjuhaena and Frouehenge have been changed into Marienvoglein, which corresponds with Our Lady's Bird. There can, therefore, be little doubt that the esteem with which the lady-bird, or Our Lady's cow, is still regarded and is a relic of ancient beliefs. In parts of Northern Europe, tradition says you get a wish granted if a ladybird lands on you. In Italy, it is said by some that if a Ladybird flies into your bedroom, it is considered good luck. In central Europe, a ladybird crawling across a girl's hand is thought to mean she will get married within the year. In Russia a ladybird is called Божья-Коровка (God's cow) and a popular children's rhyme exists with a call to fly to the sky and bring back bread. Similarly, in Denmark a ladybird, called a mariehøne (Mary's hen), is asked by children to fly to 'our lord in heaven and ask for fairer weather in the morning'.

The ladybird is the symbol of the Dutch Foundation Against Senseless Violence, as you can see in the logo here. Other companies using ladybirds as their corporate logo include: Ladybird Books (owned by Pearson PLC); the Ladybird range of children's clothing sold by Woolworth's in the UK; and Axosoft, a US-based software development firm whose flagship product helps manage the software development process, including defect (bug) tracking.

In the popular Pixar animated film, A Bug's Life, Francis the Ladybug is an aggressive male flea circus performer who is deeply annoyed when his gender is confused.


Two ladybirds are featured in the Peugeot 207 TV commercial. They are shown mating inside a Peugeot 207 to the tune of The Marcels' Heartaches.

Notable species

Note that not all individuals show the number of spots suggested by their names:

Asian lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis
Asian lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis
  • Seven-spotted lady beetle, Coccinella septempunctata
  • Two-spotted lady beetle, Adalia bipunctata
  • Convergent lady beetle, Hippodamia convergens
  • Thirteen-spotted lady beetle, Hippodamia tredecimpunctata
  • Spotted lady beetle, Coleomegilla maculata
  • Twice-stabbed lady beetle, Chilocurus stigma
  • Mexican bean beetle, Epilachna varivestis Mulsant
  • Asian lady beetle or Harlequin lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis
  • Mealybug ladybird, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri

For a complete list of genera, see list of Coccinellidae genera. See also the list of British ladybirds

Long-range weather forecast

In long-range weather forecast, one species of ladybirds was studied over a period of ten years. In mild winters, they would hibernate in relatively shallow nestings. In cold winters, they would hibernate in deeper nestings. How they are able to predict the season's severity is still a mystery, but they were never wrong in ten years' time.

Additional Photographs

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