Wildlife Wednesday!

There are four major jobs insects can have: pollinator, decomposer, predator, and prey. Sometimes individual species can occupy a few of these roles.

Ladybugs, also known as ladybirds in certain parts of the world, might look beautiful but they are fierce. Ladybugs are in the beetle family and they are predators. They eat small insects called aphids which are an agricultural nightmare and ladybugs help keep their populations under control. This is why ladybugs are often used as a natural pesticide on farms and even in backyard gardens.

Not every ladybug is created equal however.

There are different species of ladybugs that can be identified by the number of spots they have on each elytra (the hard red shell/casing that covers their wings). Ladybug species are regional, therefore they have the potential to become invasive if moved to a different area. Currently in North America, there is an invasive species of ladybug that is outcompeting one of our native species. So, if you do decide to use ladybugs as a natural pesticide, make sure you do your research first and only use native species.

Now I mentioned that insects can occupy more than one of the four job categories. Because of the size of most insects, the majority will also fill the role of a prey species. Ladybugs try to avoid becoming a snack in a sinister way - they are poisonous (told you they were fierce)! Don't worry, when a ladybug lands on you it can still be considered good luck because they are not poisonous to humans. The ladybugs toxic properties are meant to impact their potential predators such as birds and reptiles. The red color of the ladybug acts as a visual warning to predators.

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