Ladybug Larvae – Easy Guide and Identifying Them – with Images


Ladybug Guides /

Ladybirds or lady beetles belong to the widespread family of Coccinellidae. Mostly called ladybugs in the USA, these beetles are not technically bugs.

More than 5000 species of ladybugs have been identified worldwide including 500 species in the USA. Each with their own unique larvae. Let’s learn more about them…

Ladybug Larvae. The newly hatched juvenile ladybug is called a larva. The alligator-like larva has an elongated body and spiky exoskeleton. Ladybug larvae have a big appetite. A single larva can eat dozens of aphids in a day. Ladybug larva usually goes through four ‘instar’ stages before becoming an adult ladybug.

Ladybug larvae come in a multitude of different shapes, forms and colors. Because of their appearance, it’s often difficult to identify them as a ladybug larva. These tiny predators are spiny and dark with bright markings on their body. They might appear to be fearsome, but these tiny colorful larvae are harmless. They’re voracious aphid eaters, that’s why farmers and gardeners are fond of them.

The identification guide is further down the topic, but here let’s start from the beginning …

Ladybug Larva Anatomy

When the ladybug eggs hatch, a single small larva emerges out. It has an elongated and segmented body of around quarter to a half inch in length, mostly dark in color and usually with some form of bright markings.

The color and form of larva differ from species to species. More on that below.

It has three pairs of legs attached to the thorax. The spikes present on the larva’s body may be flexible. Head is well developed, and mandibles are strong enough to munch on plants or aphids.

The thorax is divided into three segments called pronotum, mesonotum, and metanotum respectively. The abdomen has 9 small segments, with a ninth segment being the tale. See Fig 1. below For the names of each area of the anatomy

lady beetle larvae - parts of the body

Lady Beetle Larvae – Named Parts of the Body

a. head
b. pronotum
c. mesonotum
d. metanotum
e. abdomen

f. tergal plates
g. dorsal lobe
h. dorsal lateral lobe
i. lateral lobe
j. tergal plates

Ladybug Larvae Stages

After the eggs have been laid, larvae will emerge from the eggs in about four days. The time period for this may increase or decrease, depending on the species and other environmental variables – such as temperature and humidity.

When the larva hatches from its egg, it is said to be in its first instar. The first instar larva gives the impression of being most restricted in its movement and suffers high mortality rate. Once the cuticle hardens, the larva will begin to locate food and, eat and then eat some more!

The larva has one to one and a half days to find its prey, if unsuccessful in doing so, the larva will die.

Ladybug larvae usually molt through four instars or larval stages. An instar is a developmental stage which occurs between each molt or ecdysis. After every instar, the larva sheds its previous exoskeleton and builds up a new one, greatly increasing in size.

The larva then enters the second instar and the process goes on until larva is ready to pupate and metamorphose. When in fourth larval instar it is fully grown and attaches itself to well-sheltered place to begin forming into a pupa.

Before shedding its final skin, the larva stops moving or eating and attaches itself to a surface with the help of anal pads.

Molting starts at the head and proceeds dorsally at thorax and abdomen. After shedding its cuticle, the larva liberates itself from the shell and starts to move when its cuticle hardens.

How Long Are They Ladybug Larva For?

The larval stage begins from the moment larva hatches from its egg.  What crawls out of the egg looks absolutely nothing like the sweet, spotted adult ladybugs they will soon become. After stepping out of the egg, larva’s first job is to acclimatize, then find food to dine on.

Since female ladybugs lay eggs near colonies of aphids and other bugs, the baby larva gets to feed on aphids and other soft-bodied insects, providing a good start in life. Ladybug larvae usually stay larvae for around three to four weeks, enough time to eat up as many aphids as possible, and to store enough energy for the next stage.

LIFECYCLE EDUCATION RESOURCES – The ultimate way to study the ladybug life cycle in the classroom or at home is with the Ladybug Land Habitat. This whole pack provides you with the instructions and enables you to monitor the growth patterns of Ladybug from Larva to Adult.

If you cannot find it locally then It’s available here on Amazon. Also as an add-on, you can get the four models of the lifecycle to go with it.


Then, download the life cycle resource from my resources page, so you can document this for yourself.

How to Identify Ladybug Larva

You may have seen the larvae of ladybugs munching on aphids in your garden and wondered what those tiny monsters were – or assumed that anything which resembles them must be a bad guy.

Everyone recognizes ladybug immediately because of its brightly colored and spotted bodies, but unfortunately, the baby bugs go unnoticed due to their entirely different appearance as compared to adult ladybugs.

Instead of bright red or orange body and black dots, they look kind of tiny black alligators with spots and spines – and I’m sure you wouldn’t want an alligator look alike, crawling on your plants.

Look carefully before you spray pesticides everywhere and trust us the last thing you would want to do is kill these extremely harmless and beneficial garden allies before they fully grow into adult ladybugs.

The first step in the identification of ladybug larva is to know, what does a ladybug larva look like?

Larvae come in a variety of forms and colors, depending on the species of ladybug, to which they belong. However, ladybug larva is about ½ inch in length with an elongated and spiky body. They have more prominent legs which they use to walk rather than crawl, unlike other insect larvae.

Here’s where you can identify the larvae of some common ladybug species. Below each description is an image of the larva, then an image of what the adult will likely look like once it’s emerged from the Pupa stage.

Larvae of Common Ladybug Species

Seven Spotted Ladybug

Seven-spot ladybug is the most common and widely known ladybug. The larvae of seven spotted ladybugs are elongated black in color with tiny hair-like spines perfectly aligned on the body.

A notable feature which helps identify seven-spotted ladybug larvae is colored markings. Three or four pairs of yellow or orange colored markings are present on abdomen laterally. See also pictured below the final adult image these larvae will become.

7-spot-ladybug larva.
7 spot ladybug larva
what the spots on ladybugs mean
7 spot adult ladybug

Harlequin Ladybird / Asian Lady Beetle

Harlequin ladybug, Japanese ladybug, Halloween ladybug, Asian ladybug or more scientifically correct Harmonia axyridis is a species of ladybug native to Eastern Asia. It was introduced to North America as a biocontrol against plant-destroying pests. Note: the adult form shown below is an example, as they can come in a variety of colors

harlequin asian lady beetle
harlequin ladybird / asian lady beetle larva
orange asian lady beetle
harlequin ladybird / asian lady beetle adult

The newly hatched larva of the harlequin ladybird is dark grey with black short scoli (external spine having multiple points). Yellow or orange colored scoli are present on the upper side of the first abdominal segment extending to the fifth abdominal segment, making L shape on each side.

Four orange scoli are also present towards rear on 4 and 5 segments. A distinctive feature of the scoli present on the top four rows is that they each have three spines. Three pairs of brown legs are also present attached to the thorax.

Fourteen Spotted Ladybug

P14 or chessboard ladybug is another name for fourteen spotted ladybugs. Larva fourteen spotted ladybug is black with white markings around head and leg joints. Most important identification feature is small pointed projections from the last abdominal segment. The larva is quite smooth only small hair-like projections are present on the body, but no spines.

14 spot ladybug larva
14 spot ladybug larva
14 spotted ladybug
14 spotted ladybug adult

larva image source: By Gilles San Martin – Flickr: Propylea quatuordecimpunctata larvae, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Two Spotted Ladybug

Two spot ladybug larva is dark grey in color with black mounds on upper body segments. There are white patches on its grey body.  Pair of central struma on segment number four and a pair of lateral white yellow struma on the first abdominal segment can also be identified.

2-Spot-Ladybird-larva
2 spotted ladybug larva
two-spot-ladybug
2 spotted ladybug adult

larva image source: naturespot.org.uk

Orange Ladybug

Halyzia sedecimguttata, otherwise known as ‘Orange ladybug’ is pale orange in color bearing 14 to 16 cream spots. It feeds on fungus. The larva of the orange ladybug is dirty cream colored, with streaks of bright yellow and regular black spots on the body. It is 15 mm long and grazes mostly on mildew from leaves.

Orange_ladybird_larva
orange ladybug larva
orange ladybug adult
orange ladybug adult

larva image source: frog end wildlife blogspot
adult image source: Hectonichus [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Cream Spotted Ladybird

Cream spotted ladybird, as the name suggests, has cream spots on a brownish red body. The larva is darkish brown elongated with two pale markings, branched spines and presence of hair on abdomen.

cream spot ladybug larva
cream spotted ladybird larva
cream spotted ladybird adult
cream spotted ladybird adult

larva image source: By Gilles San Martin [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
adult image source: By James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Kidney Spot Ladybug

This ladybug is absolutely beautiful with its shiny black dome and two red kidney-shaped spots on its back. But the larvae of kidney spot ladybug look rather fearsome and dangerous.

Due to its slightly different appearance, as compared to other larvae, it can be identified easily if you look closely and carefully. Larvae of kidney spot ladybug are dark, elongated and spiky. The body is covered with long branched bristles.

kidney spot ladybug larva
kidney spot ladybug
kidney spot ladybug adult

larva image source: flickr

Twenty Two Spot Ladybug:

Officially called the more complex name of Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata. The twenty-two spotted ladybug larva looks like a striking form if you see one. There appears to be more than 22 markings along it’s body length and the yellow body color gives away the finished coloring of the adult beetle.

twenty-two spotted lady beetle larva
twenty-two spotted lady beetle larva
22 spot ladybug
twenty two spot lady beetle adult

adult image source: Olei [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

Twenty Four Spot Ladybug

The larvae of twenty-four spot ladybug is pale greenish grey with darker spikes. The spikes present on the body are finely branched. These spikes are also present in its pupal form to help protect pupa from predators.

24 spotted ladybird larva
twenty four spotted ladybird larva
24 spotted ladybug adult
twenty four spotted ladybug adult

larva image source Gilles San Martin [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
adult image source: By Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez – Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link

Ten Spot Ladybug

Ten spot ladybug larva is pale with black marks on its body. Two orange spots can be identified laterally on the first abdominal segment and a central orange spot on the fifth segment. Note: the adult form given below is is an example only and can actually come in a variety of colors.

10-spot-ladybird larva
ten spotted ladybird larva
10 spotted ladybug - wikipedia
ten spotted ladybug adult

adult image source: By Bob Ionescu – self-made by author, Attribution, Link

Pine Ladybird

Exochomus quadripustulatus or pine ladybug is small ladybug with the red crooked front spot. The larva of pine ladybug can be identified by its dull purple greyish color with pale black lines and smudged grey pattern. Body is covered with short bristles. Tail has a spiky crest.

pine ladybird
pine ladybird larva
pine ladybird - wikipedia
pine ladybird adult

larva image source: By Gilles San Martin from Namur, Belgium [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
adult image source: By ©entomart

Variegated Ladybug / Adonis Ladybird

ariegated ladybug or Adonis ladybug or you may as well call it Hippodamia variegate.  The greyish brown larva of Adonis ladybug has an orange marked thoracic segment. The first abdominal segment has orange marks on the lateral side.

adonis ladybird larva
adonis ladybird larva
Hippodamia variegata
adonis ladybird adult

larva image source: eakringbirds
adult ladybug image source: Gilles San Martin from Namur, Belgium [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Heather Ladybug:

Scientifically called Chilocorus bipustulatus, is a black domed shine beetle with two red spots on its back. The larva is about 5 mm. spikes are present on its dark brown body and distinctive pale stripe can be observed across the abdomen.

heather ladybug
heather ladybug larva
Heather ladybird - Chilocorus bipustulatus
heather ladybug adult

larva image source: flickr
adult ladybug image source: Charles J Sharp [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Twice Stabbed Lady Beetle

Chilocorus stigma is the twice stabbed ladybird. So called as the appears to have the image of being stabbed on both sides. However, you wouldn’t necessarily know it, aside from two small markings between the third and fourth segments over a brown colored body.

twice stabbed ladybug larva
twice stabbed ladybug larva
twice stabbed ladybug
twice stabbed ladybug adult

larva image source: entnemdept.ufl.edu


I hope you found and identified the Ladybird Larvae you might be looking at.

What Do Ladybug Larvae Eat?

Many people think it’s only the spotted red ladybug that eats all the aphids and other bad bugs, but that’s not entirely true. Although ladybugs do dine on aphids and other pests, they don’t eat as much in their adult form on a daily basis as that of a ladybug larvae – which are enthusiastic predators of aphids and other soft-bodied troublemaking insects.

Larvae, due to their spiky, miniature alligator-like appearance, are often mistaken as a garden pest. Like adult ladybugs, larvae also gobble up mites, scales, aphids, mealybugs, and other soft-bodied insects. a single larva can eat dozens of aphids per day.

They are 100% carnivorous and in their eating frenzy, they might even eat other ladybugs too. Yes, you heard it right. Ladybugs larvae show cannibalistic behavior. Larva in its first instar gobbles up other unfertilized eggs, which is advantageous in terms of fast growth and development,a dn if food is scarce they may even turn on each other.

Larvae feeding on unfertilized ‘dummy’ eggs left by the mother have a greater probability of survival compared to those just eating aphids. This clearly shows that eggs offer high nutritional value.

As the larva grows and reaches second or third instar. Its eating preference gradually changes from anything it needs to get – to aphids.

LIFECYCLE EDUCATION RESOURCES – The ultimate way to study the ladybug life cycle in the classroom or at home is with the Ladybug Land Habitat. This whole pack provides you with the instructions and enables you to monitor the growth patterns of Ladybug from Larva to Adult.

If you cannot find it locally then It’s available here on Amazon. Also as an add-on, you can get the four models of the lifecycle to go with it.


Then, download the life cycle resource from my resources page, so you can document this for yourself.

How Long Does It Take for a Larva to Mature into a Ladybug?   

Female ladybug lays eggs usually in clusters of around 10-15, mostly near the colonies of aphids or other sources of food, and more often than not, on the underside of leaves to protect them from any possible predators.

Within a week, the eggs hatch and what comes out looks more like a tiny dragon or alligator, called larva. As soon as larva emerges, it starts gobbling down aphids and other insects. the larva will eat up to 400 aphids in 2 to 3 weeks of its larval stage.

The larva will now attach itself to a leaf and pupate. In about a week the pupa will transform into a beautiful little ladybug. The life cycle of a ladybug, from eggs to mature adult, takes 4 to 8 weeks depending upon the species and environmental variables.

Although the ladybug larva looks nothing like a mature adult ladybug, it’s still a beneficial insect and our garden ally. They’re great predators of aphids, scales, mealybugs, and other pests.

Are Ladybug Larvae Beneficial Insects?

Larvae are completely harmless to our gardens and plants, in fact, they help keep a check on all those harmful pests slithering around on our plants. As Larvae, they spend most of their days eating pest insects until they eventually grow, pupate and emerge as an adult ladybug.

Do Ladybug Larvae Bite?

Yes they can, and do. I’ve never been bitten by a Ladybug Larva myself – at least not that I noticed. But with their mouth-parts it is certainly possible for Ladybug Larva to bite, their mandibles are large enough to nip, and possibly have the strength too. The bite of larvae might be annoying but it’s not as annoying as the sting of bees or wasps.

Any pain or discomfort caused by a Ladybug larva bite would mostly be short-lived, as Ladybug don’t inject any venom or toxins. These tiny bites are rarely felt; if they are, it will feel like a faint pinprick on the skin. If you’re in any doubt, or it causes anything more than a minor irritation, then seek medical advice.

Asian ladybugs certainly bite. Asian ladybug larvae are more likely to bite people too, but it’s mainly just by way of scraping the skin they land on.

Some people report having been infected by ladybug bite, especially Asian ladybugs. But in general, a Ladybug bite does not seriously injure human or spread any disease or allergies. If you ever get bitten by a ladybug or its larvae, don’t panic and just wash the area where you’ve been bitten. if in doubt, or you begin to suffer other symptoms, then seek medical advice or assistance.

What Are White Ladybug Larvae?

If you see a white ‘hairy’ bug, on the underside of leaves or stems, don’t panic – before you murder one of nature’s masters of disguise, read carefully because it’s not what you think it is.

Larva of ladybug hyperaspis looks like a mealybug but it’s not a mealybug, due to mistaken identity many of these beneficial insects are killed unnecessarily each year. Mealybugs are flatter, neater and symmetrical while white larvae are small rounded and waxy.

A single larva may consume 3,000 scale nymphs to complete its development. The white waxy larva of hyperaspis produces wax from specialized glands, lining laterally.

Hyperaspis is a large genus of dwarf ladybugs which feed on scale insects, aphids and mealybugs. The larvae are covered within white wax making them look like a mealybug. The wax is not just there to style the appearance of larva, but it reduces the chances of larva being eaten up by other insects.

You might be wondering How do I distinguish the larva from mealybug?”. The fairly easy method to identify the larva of this beneficial ladybug is to give it a little poke. a Mealybug usually stays in one place and moves slowly, whilst ladybug larva ambles away fairly quickly when disturbed. Their waxy coating also make them almost immune to ants, as the ants cannot seem to get a good grip on them. This is ideal if they encounter ants farming aphid colonies.

Another most interesting thing about these white ghost larvae is, that they don’t grow up to be white ladybug as you might expect. This deceptive larva, when fully grown, turn into a gorgeous black beetle with two red spots. Next time you see a stealthy, wax cloaked larvae – don’t spray them with insecticides… they’re your allies.

image source: http://fieldbioinohio.blogspot.com/2012/06/more-on-tuliptree-scale.html

Here’s a short youtube video someone took of the Hyperaspis.

Ladybug Pupa Anatomy

Larva enters its final developmental stage as a pupa. Pupa covers itself in layers of molting skin. The adult ladybug inside the molting skin is called pharate. When the pharate emerges, it leaves its pupal exoskeleton behind, the skin that’s left behind is called exuvia.

Ladybug pupa is called adecticous pupa. Due to the absence of articulated mandibles, the pupa has to first shed its pupal cuticle, then with the help of mandible and legs, escape the cocoon.

Ladybug pupa is recognized to be an exarate pupa, that is, its appendages (legs, wings, antennae, and mouthparts) are free and not attached to the cocoon. The ladybug, which comes out of its pupal shell, is pale, golden and wet with no spots on its elytra for around the first twenty-four hours.

How Long Are Larvae A Pupa For?

A ladybugs larva will not enter the pupa stage until it’s gained a certain weight, that’s generally around 15 milligrams.

For larva to pupate, it’s important that they find a safe place and attach themselves to a leaf or stem of a plant. For how long a pupal stage lasts, usually depends upon the temperature, it normally takes three days to two weeks for the adult ladybug to emerge out of its pupal shell.

Ladybug Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis refers to the changes in form that occur in the transformation of a larva to an adult. There are two main types of metamorphosis:

  1. Complete metamorphosis
  2. Incomplete metamorphosis.

Ladybugs are holometabolous insects, that is, they undergo complete metamorphosis.  In this type of metamorphosis each stage of the life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult – looks totally different from others. Ladybugs lay eggs on leaves near colonies of aphids and other food sources, so her newborns can have access to food as soon as they hatch from their eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae will emerge and start eating like a hungry beast. Ladybug larvae bear no resemblance to the adult parent ladybugs.

After a few days, larvae grow and molt multiple times during the process of metamorphosis. Larva attaches itself to the substrate and begins its pupal stage by curling like a ball and covering itself entirely in a layer of skin. In this stage, the pupa does not move or eat and fall asleep for some days.

At the end of the process, the color, structure, markings on ladybug may change completely. When the time comes, the recently transformed ladybug breaks through the pupal skin and emerge out as an adult ladybug.

Here’s some time-lapse footage of the complete cycle of a Ladybug Larva to adult…

Conclusion

It’s easy to see how many people could mistake these for some kind of pests, they don’t look anything like what they will eventually become. But naturally, my advice is don’t kill them, they’re really one of the best friends your garden could have and we could probably use more of them.

Related Questions

What is ladybug pupa? ladybug in its inactive form between larva and adult stage is called pupa. In this form, ladybug barely moves and does not eat. During this stage they transform into an adult ladybird.

Do ladybugs live everywhere? Ladybugs can live anywhere there is a high pest insect population and providing the climate is temperate to warm. They thrive in temperate climates high in flowers and vegetation such as gardens, and in land used for crops.

Are all ladybugs female? No. there are female ladybugs and male ladybugs. It’s hard to tell them apart, but female ladybugs are slightly larger in size compared to male ladybugs. To learn more visit my article Female and Male Ladybugs, What’s the Difference

Is a Ladybug a bug? No, although they’re called ladybugs, they’re not technically bugs. Ladybugs are beetles which belong to order Coleoptera. Entomologists use the name lady beetle to be a little more scientifically accurate.

2 Replies to “Ladybug Larvae – Easy Guide and Identifying Them – with Images”

  1. I have a ladybug larva that I cannot identify. It was removed from the stomach of a cane toad in Naples, FL. I have a photograph, and would appreciate your help in an identification. If you could send me an e-mail, I will attach the photograph in a return e-mail.

    Thank you so much.

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