Can Ladybugs Swim? Do They Drown, Can They Survive in Water?

Ladybug Facts /

I’ve seen the occasional video here and there about Ladybugs swimming, but are they swimming? Or drowning? So I decided to find out more information and share it here.

I’d hate to think of these little critters drowning in water, it’s just not a great way to go at all, so I know if I come across any Ladybug in need that I can help, then I will.

Plus it’s a fascinating subject as it totally does not work how you think it does. Plus you can apply this to a lot of the insect world too.

Here’s everything I’ve been able to find out about whether Ladybugs drown, swim, or both. Or just float! To help explain this, I’ll take you through how they ‘breath’ too.

So here’s the short answer, and then I’ll go on to explain more.

Can Ladybugs Swim? Yes, Ladybugs Can Swim, they can paddle very well in water. But they’ll search for dry land. Their high protein diet means they have lots of energy so could swim probably up to an hour. However, it’s not energy levels, but breathing, that poses their biggest challenge. Let’s explore this further.

Can Ladybugs Swim…

So it’s not so much if they can swim or not, it’s partly about their endurance capabilities in the water. However, the more limiting factor could be whether they’re able to breathe whilst underwater… to help answer that, we need to understand how – or in fact IF, they breathe.

How Do Ladybugs Breathe?

…and here’s where we start to get complicated and a bit science nerdy… just for this first part.

Despite what you might think, Ladybugs don’t breathe through their mouths. In fact, they don’t actually ‘breath’ in the sense we understand it – but I’ll come on to that in a second!

Do Ladybugs Breathe Oxygen?

Like us, all insects require oxygen in order to live, and from that, they produce carbon dioxide as a waste product. However, insects do not have lungs, to add to this, they don’t actually transport oxygen around a circulatory system the same as we humans do.

wet ladybug

Ladybug Respiratory Process

The Ladybug’s abdomen and Thorax contain their respiratory organs, as well as other organs such as digestion and reproduction.

All insects rely on an ‘exchange of gases’ process that’s designed to allow oxygen to envelop internal organs, bathing their vital organs in oxygen. So it’s a mix of taking onboard oxygen and allowing it to flow around organs, whilst also expelling carbon dioxide as one complete continuous process.

Because of this, you might say they ‘breathe’ through (or via) the air ducts in the side of their abdomen and thorax, these are commonly known as spiracles.

How Ladybugs Control Their Intake of Oxygen

These spiracles have the ability to efficiently restrict or allow the passage of air into the body. This influx of air is often further controlled in some insects by a muscular valve that regulates the intake of air as well as the expulsion of waste air (carbon dioxide).

When air is permitted to pass into the system, it is then filtered through to a highly dense network of tubes known as the tracheae. Once in this region, the air is then filtered again like a sponge which allows oxygen in, and carbon dioxide out and also prevents fluid from entering or leaving the body.

In so doing, any external water will not find its way into the body’s oxygen tubes, or cavities.

So now we know how their breathing works, let’s see how this translates to our questions about swimming, drowning, and breathing whilst in water…

How Long Can Ladybugs Swim For?

On a physical level, Ladybugs have a high protein diet, mostly consisting of protein-rich Aphids. So they pack a lot of endurance and energy.

As an indication of this, when in flight, Ladybugs are capable of flying for up to 2 hours without stopping. So although water poses more of a ‘resistance’ challenge, there’s no reason to think they couldn’t physically last at least half that time in the water.

There are no scientific studies to fall back on for this. Using my knowledge and experience of Ladybugs, my estimate for this would be that Ladybugs are capable of up to about an hour of physical swimming time before reaching any dangerous levels of exhaustion and that’s when the Ladybug risks dying. But that isn’t their biggest challenge.

ladybug avoiding water
image of ladybug avoiding water

Their biggest challenge …is breathing whilst in water.

Can Ladybirds Breathe Whilst Swimming?

As the respiratory spiracles are located mostly on the thorax and abdomen, i.e. their underside, It’s not really conclusive whether there’s any chance air can be taken on board during swimming. But, the answer is probably no.

In short, spiracles (and any additional inner muscular valves) close whilst in water, preventing any water from being taken into the body. Any water already in the system however will not get past the Tracheae tubes.

As long as enough air has been taken in, the Ladybug should be able to survive for a good few minutes whilst (in essence) holding her breath and using up available internal oxygen supplies. This can be anything up to 30 minutes.

What this means is, that the Ladybug can probably physically swim for up to 30 minutes, or even up to an hour, but it’s likely that oxygen resources will run out before then. No studies have yet been carried out to find out how long this is (that would probably be cruel). But I expect it would be around 10 to 15 minutes.

In normal rainfall conditions, this would normally allow them sufficient time to locate dry higher ground. In extreme conditions that might prove more difficult. This is also the reason why Ladybugs seek shelter when it rains.

Do Ladybugs Drown in Water?

Yes, Ladybugs can drown in water, or most other fluids after a period of time. They are strong swimmers, but almost every land or air animal on the planet has its limits on physical swimming time and endurance. Once their energy levels become depleted they’ll begin to lose the ability to paddle and …will ultimately stop swimming.

Can Ladybugs Breathe Underwater?

That is unlikely, Ladybugs can’t breathe underwater, but can survive on oxygen reserves trapped inside the body. I’ve not tested this out, and I cannot find a research paper concerning it. But if you watch the video below you’ll see a Ladybug spending a short amount of time underwater – seemingly by choice – without seemingly experiencing much stress.

ladybugs can survive for a short time underwater

So, Can Ladybugs Survive Long in Water?

Again the answer to this is yes they can survive, up to a point. That point is either when they run out of oxygen reserves, (which will likely happen first), or they become physically too tired to endure further swimming.

Beyond this point, survival percentages will begin to fall rapidly, as they run out of oxygen AND deplete energy levels trying to locate dry land. Very quickly, the ability to keep afloat and breathe become seriously compromised.

Ladybug Survival After Near Drowning

Even after being in the water for an extended period of time, the Ladybug is not out of danger. They may suffer a period of shock which they can struggle to recover from. Furthermore, they may not have sufficient energy levels to recover enough to locate food to restore stamina to full health.

During the Summer, Ladybugs store up fat reserves in order to survive throughout the Winter period, if these reserves are not maintained then their ability to survive through the winter could be compromised. If they deplete these energy stores trying to remain alive in the water, then they risk a difficult Winter period.

Also, after being immersed in water, it’s not uncommon for a Ladybug to clean itself off before continuing on its journey.

Can Ladybugs Swim – Conclusion

Wow, that was tough, there isn’t actually that much scientific information out there on the breathing part of Ladybugs, so I’ve had to apply some findings and knowledge on general insect respiratory systems, some reasonable conjecture, and some common sense into the article on a few of the points.

If I’m wrong on any aspects then I’d love an entomologist or other expert to let me know and I’ll happily amend it. Ask yourself too … what would you do if you saw a Ladybug swimming in the water?

I hope it was useful to you and answered your questions on how Ladybugs breathe, if they can breathe in water and if Ladybirds can swim.

If you’re looking for any special Ladybug gifts in your life for those who love Ladybugs as much as I do, then check out my resource page where you’ll find some great stylish gifts, education activities, and some wonderful lucky charms and accessories for everyone. Specially curated by me over the years and using my best experience and knowledge.

Related Questions

Do Ladybugs Breath While Sleeping? When sleeping or hibernating, Ladybugs still have to breathe and do so throughout the sleep (or rest) period. Whilst Hibernating, a ladybug’s body systems, and metabolism slow down to around 1/10th its normal rate. So taking oxygen on board becomes far more shallow and expends far less energy.

Can Ladybugs Survive in Rain? Yes, Ladybugs can survive in rain, providing they’re not washed into the wide or rushing water. They’ll avoid rain whenever possible and find shelter away from it.

For more info, Check out the article on Ladybug swimming, or my ‘Ladybug Everything You Need to Know’ article. Both of which cover the Ladybug respiratory system … and everything else Ladybug related!

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4 Replies to “Can Ladybugs Swim? Do They Drown, Can They Survive in Water?”

  1. Hello, I’m looking for some information about ladybugs. I’m wondering what attracts them to swimming pools? I pull at least 30 out of my backyard pool per day, most are still alive but I do come across some drowned ones. Sometimes I pull then out just for them to race back into the water! Any idea why this is? It’s a saltwater/chlorine pool.

    1. Thank you for the comment Heather, that’s sad.
      I have heard of this before and it defies any real explanation. It could be coincidence – large area and chance per thousand etc. Or I do wonder if it might be the salt they’re sensing too. It could just be they’re unaware it’s a pool. It’s mostly a mystery and I’ve not found any concrete reasoning behind it.

  2. I also have a chlorine/ saltwater pool and actually ended up here because I’ve been saving ladybugs from our pool pretty regularly but now that I think of it it wasn’t an issue before we put the salt in the water so maybe it is the salt that attracts them?

    1. Thank you Alexis, yes indeed it could be the salt in the pool that attracts the Ladybugs. I hope you’re able to put a fix in place for this 🙂

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