Native Village
Youth and Education news
 MAY 1, 2010   VOLUME 3

Looking for the Lost Ladybug
By Alicia Graef
Condensed by Native Village

There are more than 5,000 species of ladybugs around the earth. About 450 are Native to North America. Scientists are now asking children, adults, families, educators and everyone help our Native ladybugs by joining in "The Lost Ladybug Project."

Ladybugs were once a very common insect in the U.S. and Canada.  They control pests that attack food plants and  balance our ecosystems. However, in the last 20 years, invasive ladybugs have crowded them out, and Native ladybugs began vanishing. The invaders include the multicolored Asian ladybug, checkerboard ladybug and the seven-spotted ladybug.

“This [invasion] has happened very quickly and we don't know how this shift happened, what impact it will have, and how we can prevent more native species from becoming so rare,” said John E. Losey from Cornell University.

Invasive and Destructive Ladybugs

Asian ladybug

The larger, rounder multicolored Asian ladybug was introduced to help control scale bugs. While they reproduce very quickly and eat a lot of aphids, they also feed on ladybug larvae
. It varies greatly in appearance -- from bold spots to completely spotless and everything in between. Insects that have not yet overwintered are orange in color. Older insects are intensely red.

Checkerboard Ladybug

The checkerboard ladybug is small and yellow. It hitched a ride from Europe through the St. Lawrence River in the 1960s and has moved south. It hardly has spots at all because they fuse to form a checkerboard pattern. It is small and yellow—not red.


Seven-spotted ladybug

This European beetle was introduced to North America to control of aphids. It  has caused a reduction in the number of native beetles throughout the East.

In June 2007 the Lost Ladybug Project received $2,000,000 from the National Science Foundation to expand its  program. The goal is to use citizen science to help search for the bugs. Ladybugs are collected into vials with twigs and drops of water. The date, time and place they were found are written down.  The ladybugs are placed on a gray square and their pictures are taken. Digital images are sent to the project's website, or color prints can be mailed to Cornell University, home of the Ladybug Project.

The ladybugs should then be returned, unharmed, to where they were found.

This information will help scientists understand the shifting changes on earth, how they affect crops, and better track rare species and the ecosystems where they live. 

In turn, youth will learn about how the ladybug affects nature, biodiversity and conservation. Educational materials, books, collection vials and nets are provided through Cornell University. 

The Ladybug Project's website also provides more information. It offers an automated identification feature and real-time feedback on collected species. Ladybug lore, myths, songs and culturally based stories explain the relationships between ladybugs, pests and our food.

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