The Science of Sustainability

Ladybugs, Ladybugs, Flying Away Home

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Ladybugs gather in the Oakland Hills to spend the winter. Photo by Sara Fetterly

It’s time for the annual convergence of ladybugs in our East Bay redwoods.  Every winter the jewel-like insects gather by the hundreds and even thousands. The Convergent Lady Beetle, one of our natives, is found here and throughout North America.  On warm days, they crawl and fly around sunny clearings in the forest.  Cold and rainy days cause them to hunker down in red drifts on fence posts, tree trunks and under leaves. Here’s a short documentary about our local ladybugs in Redwood Regional Park, Oakland.

Ladybugs get active on warm days in winter. Photo by Sara Fetterly

One surprising fact about ladybugs is that they can’t fly when the temperature drops below 55 degrees F. So when they migrate, when the temperature drops — so do they. (This would make an excellent cartoon.) Unlike migratory birds, the beetles don’t gather to migrate in large masses. Yet somehow, large groups end up in the same places year after year. If you’ve ever been curious to how their wings work, check out this super slow motion film of a ladybug taking flight. Some groups head for the Sierra to spend the winter in rocky crevices, then migrate to the farm fields of the Central Valley for mating and feeding. For being so small, they cover a lot of territory. One of their sterling qualities is that both the adult beetles and larva eat large quantities of aphids.

You can get involved with the Lost Ladybug project from Cornell University and help document ladybug species. Non-native ladybugs were introduced from Asia and Europe in the late 1950's and ‘60s. That’s about the time one of the native species, the nine-spot ladybug, began to decline. That was also a time of heavy pesticide use, including DDT.  Hmmm, are there some possible correlations here? Participate in the Lost Ladybug project by taking photos of ladybugs around your yard or neighborhood and submit them to the study. There’s a handy field guide to help you identify them and instructions for how to photograph and submit your findings. You can also help beneficial insects like our ladybugs and our planet by avoiding pesticides in your yard and garden. 

Finally, get outdoors! Even in winter, there’s plenty to enjoy in our local outdoor spaces and Redwood Regional Park is wonderful, rain or shine. Let me know in the comments about other places you find groups of ladybugs or any other ladybug species you find!

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Category: Biology, Blog

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Sharol Nelson-Embry

About the Author ()

Sharol Nelson-Embry is the Supervising Naturalist at the Crab Cove Visitor Center & Aquarium on San Francisco Bay in Alameda. Crab Cove is part of the East Bay Regional Park District, one of the largest and oldest regional park agencies in the nation. She graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Natural Resources Management and an epiphany that connecting kids with nature was her destiny. She's been rooted in the Bay Area since 1991 after working at nature centers and outdoor science schools around our fair state. She loves the great variety of habitats stretching from the Bay shoreline to the redwoods, lakes, and hills. Sharol enjoys connecting people to nature with articles in local newspapers and online forums. Read her previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.
  • http://profiles.google.com/dlfrink Doug Frink

    Ladybugs congregate every year in pretty much the same place on my property in the Sierra foothills. Here's a video I made of the scene, along with a song I wrote about them.

  • Pingback: Ladybug Love Fest

  • Guest

    Found one property near Lake Berryessa in Napa, Ca.

  • Allison Perry

    Found on property near Lake Berryessa, Napa, CA.
    There's tons of them (pictures only show a small amount)

  • dennisz

    Here in maastricht holland, in my appartment its a kady bug infestation, there a more then 100 in my house.. Its not normal, crawled up with 40 together in a corner of my seeling behind the curtens.. I let them lose back in the garden.. Its the normal red specie and the australian ones, black ones with white dots