Ladybugs. Lady beetles. Asian multicolored lady beetle. Japanese ladybug. Harmonia axyridis. Whatever your favorite name for these insects, there is no denying that this has been a good spring in Central Illinois for these coccinellid beetles.
Originally imported from Asia into the United States as a predator for aphids on agricultural crops, this introduced species has become the dominant lady beetle on the continent, shoving native species to the side. In this area of the country, they are the primary form of biological control against soybean aphids and a boon to the agricultural community.
Normally, we don’t see many lady beetles in town until after the aphid populations have died down in the fall, and these red speckled creatures fly to find overwintering spots in our homes and buildings. But this spring, as I’ve walked around the Illinois campus the past few weeks, I’ve seen them everywhere.
They are crawling along branches. On this particular day, a heavy dew had fallen overnight and the lady beetles carried small water droplets on their shell all day.
On sunny days, the lady beetles can be found basking on berries, like this privet fruit.
They seem especially fond of the fuzzy magnolia buds around campus. Looking closely at the magnolia trees, it’s easy to see them dotted with red.
I found this pair of lady beetles snuggled into a branch know on a bottlebrush buckeye, catching a few final rays of afternoon sun.
They stand in bright contrast to the yellow flowers of Cornus mas.
Even after the magnolia flowers opened and shed their fuzzy coating, the lady beetles continue to crawl energetically over the textured petals.
I wonder if they are attracted to the sweet scent of the magnolias, or use the nectar as a secondary food source. Perhaps it’s simply warmer in the center of the flower, but it seemed as if every other flower had a lady beetle nestled in the center.
I understand why not everyone is a fan of these beautiful insects, but I must admit that I’m quite partial to them and hope they keep joining us each and every spring.