Man, it’s brutal out there! Lady Beetles

Whew! I spent a whole day (so far) watching lady beetle larvae. I have a nicely “dewed” crape Myrtle that’s been home to a few generations of lady beetles. Usually, I pay little attention . This year, owing to covid-19 SIP plus recovering from a shoulder/neck injury, I’ve become hyper aware of life in my small condo patio. Now they are at the fun stage, like toddlers, getting big and obvious. I kept a particular eye on 3 individuals* that seemed to be getting ready either to molt to a new instar or pupate (yah, I don’t know). After fixing their butts down and flexing or resting for up to a day, EACH oNE was cannibalized!!! I assume that is normal (like preying mantids, maybe, “there can be only one!”?)



Great observations! Here’s an article about it

OsAwA, N. (1992). Effect of pupation site on pupal cannibalism and parasitism in the ladybird beetle Harmonia axyridis Pallas(Coleoptera, Coccinellidae). Japanese Journal of Entomology , 60 (1), 131-135.


Oh, that was just the kind of information I was looking for this afternoon as one after another of my targets got cannibalized! Wow!


This is a perfect example of why iNaturalist is such a great place. @teellbee posts very interesting nature observations, and then @pfau_tarleton comes along and provides a link to the literature so anyone who is interested in this subject can learn more. Thanks to you both!


Must be why the lady beetles in my area don’t seem to care about walking around and under the local nursery web spider. “I ate my brothers and sisters. I’ll eat you too if you try to start any trouble!” (Okay, not really…)


Huh… those lady beetles do look amazingly chill being so close to the spider! :spider: :beetle: :beetle:

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Perhaps they’ve all read about the bad tempered lady bird who picks a fight a blue whale! After that, a spider is just chump change.

The Bad-tempered Ladybird


@kiwifergus had a great suggestion for if I wanted to witness a lady beetle pupate. To avoid cannibalism, he suggested I take a leaf with a newly attached lady beetle and put it in a jar to projected it from others.
I did just that yesterday and woke up to a new pupa in my jar. I’m leaving the lid off and putting it by the tree it came from so it can move off freely when it is ready.

I wondered if my backyard experiment ought to count as wild or captive. I collected a leaf with a lady beetle already attached. I moved it to a jar to prevent it from being cannibalized. I put the leaf in a jar and it pupated overnight. Now, I put the open jar back by the tree where I collected it so the lady beetle can move off when it’s ready.

I marked it as captive, but could I change it to wild as 1) it started wild, and 2) it will hopefully end as wild?

It is wild.
Captive would be if you were breeding ladybirds commercially.

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It’s subjective though… for example when I rear caterpillars to find out what species, I consider the caterpillar photographed insitu is wild, and possibly even back home if I photograph it “in the studio” so to speak, it is wild if I locate the pin and date/time to when it was collected, but captive if leaving it as pin at studio and date/time I do that photography. This is important, because some of that “later” photography is more about life stages (instars) than anything else, so I am happy to have it casual and captive and tied by field or comments to the other insitu observations. Once you have “protected” it for any significant period of time, then you can no longer say that it would still be alive without your intervention, as predators might have taken it. So I woiuld consider it captive right up to the time that you release it, and then once it has moved on from that location of release, then it again becomes wild. Every one will have a different take on this though, so keep that in mind… the DQA for captive/cultivated is a vote situation, so if 4 say wild, and 3 captive, then the community position becomes wild. I think that system, when allowed to play out fairly, is as good as one can get without a ridiculous set of rules and regulations to determine such states!

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Interesting! Well, for this individual, it was never more than 6ft from its original collection point. The cup only had a cover the first night (duh, it’s a pupa, it’s not moving, Terry. It doesn’t need a cover). That said, every other potential pupa I found on the tree or lantern was cannibalized before managing to pupating. I’m still watching, though. I’m interested to see how it does. I have itd leaf in the open on a damp bedding with a leaf or two over it now. Interested to see what developed.

It is “aware”. Every so often, it sits up for a while. If we bump it while trying to take a photo, it folds down immediately.

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yeah, lepidoptera larvae are often quite active while in the early stages of pupation.

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Man, what folks will do for an encore!


Thus, after observing the lady beetle activity in my yard for the last 2 weeks, I surmise that for my little local population, it’s an advantage to be late to the pupate stage. Most of the critters that tried to pupate earlier were sitting ducks once they stuck their butts down. They served as major snacks for the still lively brethren. The ones that waited until there were fewer cannibalistic larva around managed to make a pupa and most of those have emerged by now.


Interesting, I hadn’t seen it under that title. In the states, during my childhood, back mumble years ago, it was published under the name The Grouchy Ladybug.

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the ones that waited. The larger well-fed ones? Eat while you wait!


Fascinating observation. I wonder if you could gather together enough information to publish a note on it?

Also, this is the Asian invaders right? I wonder if native species that pupate earlier are victims to the Harlequins cannibalistic predilections too?


LOL, I got sort of unnaturally fascinated by by their behavior being stuck at home and all. Thank you for your nice reaction. :)

Yes, these are ID’d as the Asian lady beetles. Many years ago, I had roses that always got infested with aphids. I bought lady beetles from the nursery several times to control them. I have since wondered if those were a native or non-native species? Did I further introduce the Asian lady beetles? ( Although, most of the ones I see in my yard this year are yellow rather than ladybug red. )

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I don’t know which species they were selling at the nursery, but Harmonia axyridis (the introduced Asian one) comes in all sorts of different colors and spot patterns. There’s a nice montage on Wikipedia here:

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