Four Beneficial Insects as Babies

By Ann M. Mason, Fairfax Master Gardener Intern


Ladybug nymph & adult

Most of us love to see photos of babies — our own, farm animals and wildlife. But when it comes to insects, some of us might get squeamish. Members of my own family are known to squeal, “Bugs! Ick!”

If we set the squeamish aside, I suspect many gardeners are eager to learn what beneficial insects look like as babies. Who wants to deliberately kill an ally consumed with an intense focus on attacking and feeding on garden pests? In the pursuit of seeking ‘bad bugs,’ we are garden buddies with beneficial insects.

Adult lacewing

Adult lacewing

Let’s look at the forms (egg, larva, adult) of four beneficial insects that consume some of our problematic garden insect pests. Ladybugs (also known as lady beetles and lady bird beetles) include a group of common predators in several species in the family Coccinellidae. Known as voracious eaters, they eat as many as 5,000 aphids during the lifetime of a single beetle. Adults are easy to recognize with the oval-shaped, brightly colored convex bodies with spots. Generally, ladybugs can be yellow, pink, orange, red or black, with contrasting dark spots.

In Virginia, we might see our native Hippodamia convergens, the convergent lady beetle; the Coccinella septempunctata, the seven-spotted lady beetle; Coleomegilla maculata, the pink lady beetle; or the recently introduced and problematic Harmonia axyridis, the Asian lady beetle. It competes for the territory of our native lady beetle and becomes a problem in the fall when it seeks shelter in homes. The convergent lady beetle has up to 13 black spots on the wing covering (elytra) and sports a white line surrounding the prothorax that converges behind the head. The seven-spotted lady beetle has seven black dots on the elytra when closed — three of which sit on top of the beetle forming a triangle. Each side has two more spots, and on each side of the central dot are small white patches.