These little bright little creatures have long been loved by kids and adults alike, you may not know much about their diet. So here’s what ladybugs eat, the complete list of ladybugs normal daily food types!
Here’s the really quick answer, then we’ll dive into more detail…
What Do Ladybugs Eat? Aphids and other
Bright red and spotted, ladybugs are one of the most loved insects. Considered a good luck symbol by many, ladybugs have made their way from gardens to homes to storybooks.
Like most of the animal kingdom, much of the life of a Ladybug is focussed on locating and eating food in order to survive. Let’s delve into the menu that would be served at a ladybug’s preferred restaurant!
What Kind of Things Do Ladybugs Eat?
Ladybugs are opportunistic feeders. That is once the target food (e.g. aphids) source is cleared, they move on. Depending on the type of food, Ladybirds are grouped as follows.
- Aphidophagous – These feed on aphids
- Phytophagous – Feed on vegetative plant parts such as Epilachina spp.
- Polliniferous – Feed on pollen (of Artemisia, Euphorbia) and nectar of young apple trees such as Micraspis spp.
- Mycophagous – Feed on fungal organisms such as powdery mildews. Some ladybirds are obligate (like those of the genus Psyllobora) while others are facultative ( meaning occurring optionally in response to circumstances rather than by nature. )
- Acariphagous – Feed on mites
- Coccidophagous – Feed on coccids (Scales)
Ladybugs, contrary to their name, are very un-ladylike and have voracious appetites. These seemingly cute looking insects are welcomed by farmers with open arms as they save their crops by preying on crop-destroying aphids.
Aphids are crop-destroying insects that suck the sap out of plants. Ladybugs can eat up to 5000 aphids during its lifetime.
However, not all carnivorous ladybugs feed on aphids. Many species of ladybugs also feed on other soft‐bodied insects including mealybugs, scale insects, and spider mites and eggs of the European corn borer and Colorado potato beetle – more on that shortly.
There are also species, such as the Epilachninae and Henosepilachna, that feed exclusively on plants. Many ladybug species are omnivorous and feed on both plants and insects. However, for the most part, while the diet of ladybugs differs from species to species, nearly all ladybugs feed on aphids.
‘Not all carnivorous ladybugs feed on aphids’
All ladybugs belong to the “small beetle” family, known as ladybugs. Coccinellids is one of the most widespread and variable families of beetles with almost 6000 species which are found worldwide and in most habitats. Most Coccinellids feed on aphids and small insects right from the moment they hatch
Ladybugs – Coccinellids Eat Aphids
Adult female ladybugs usually lay clusters of eggs on the underside of leaves near to a food source such as Aphids, so the hatching Larvae will almost instantly have a ready supply of food from the start
The ladybug nymph (immature form of Larva) then spends several weeks gaining nourishment from the aphid colonies before emerging as an adult. It’s estimated that a single nymph usually consumes up to 400 aphids in the three week period before pupating.
I managed to capture a short video of a 7 native 7-spot ladybird eating 3 or more Aphids in quick succession which my friend uploaded for me. It’s pretty gruesome. Not quite as ‘Ladylike’ as you might think, but still fascinating! Here’s my video…
As adults, most ladybugs live between 1-2 years, very occasionally up to 3 years. And can consume thousands of aphids and other creatures at that time.
Short Helpful List of What Ladybugs Eat
Here’s a list of what most ‘common’ foods Ladybugs would dine on during their adulthood. But keep in mind there are caveats with most of these which I’ll go into below
Then there’s a more extensive list, then finally, I’ll provide a summary of each one they predate so you know what they look like too and where you’ll find them.
|Eggs||Mites, Other Beetles, Butterflies, Moths, other Ladybugs|
|Larva||Butterflies, Mites, Other Beetles, Moths, Corn Borer, other ladybugs, Maggots|
|Insects / Bugs||Aphids, Mites, Mealybugs, Leafhopper, Plant Lice, Whiteflies, Some Spiders (arachnids)|
|Fruit / Veg||Grapes, Berries, Raisins, Figs, Dates, Plums, Peaches, Cucumbers, Legumes|
|Plant Based||Nectar, Pollen, Fungi, Mildew|
Extended List of What Ladybugs Eat
With so many different types of plants, fruits vegetables and insects including soft-bodied insects, mites and spiders, it would be almost impossible to name all the Ladybug Menu on one list – that is if you could even find out all the things they eat.
But this at least provides a good range of things they generally predate and feed on, if you find something that is similar to those mentioned below, then let me know and I’ll reference it in the list – which could get pretty long!
Ladybugs Eat Eggs
- Corn Borer
- Colorado Potato Beetle
- Other Ladybugs
Ladybugs Eat Larva
- Young Corn Borer Larvae
- Mites & Nymphs
- Butterfly Caterpillar
- Moth Caterpillar
- Other Ladybugs
Ladybugs Eat Insects & Bugs
- Spider Mites
- jumping plant lice
- Small Arachnids
Ladybugs Eat Fruit/Vegetable
Ladybugs Eat Plant-Based Material
Ladybugs Eat Other Food
Let’s tackle the cannibalism part first…
Ladybugs Eat Other Ladybug Eggs and Larva
Can a ladybug pose a threat to another ladybug? Yes, it can. Particularly infamous in this area is the Harmonia axyridis or Asian lady Beetle, also called the Harlequin Ladybird. It’s the non-native species of the ladybug family in North America and Europe and is one that carries the most varieties, it’s rapidly expanding too as it’s the more aggressive cousin to the native ladybug.
Originating from East Asia, it has now spread over many continents, including Africa, North America, and Europe. Their variable features and similar appearance to native ladybugs make them difficult to tell apart.
The harlequin ladybug has a voracious appetite and they take extreme measures for survival. Research declares harlequin ladybugs to be a threat to biodiversity due to their voracious appetites and competing for food and habitat with other invertebrates.
However, it is the native ladybugs towards which they pose the biggest threat. The harlequin ladybugs compete with the native ladybugs for food making food supply scarce for the native variety.
While the harlequin ladybug feeds primarily on aphids and small insects, it also predates on the native ladybug to sustain itself when aphid supplies become low. Exhibiting cannibalistic behavior, the harlequin ladybugs will cannibalize eggs and smaller larvae of other ladybug species.
In fact, the harlequin ladybug is deemed responsible for the near extinction of the popular two-spotted native ladybug and six other native species as well.
How High can a Ladybug Fly?
60′, 600′, 1600′, 2600′ or 3600′
Here’s the Answer
Ladybugs Eat Eggs
Ladybugs will eat the eggs of almost any insect, providing the eggs are relatively soft, freely available and nutritious. These include but are not limited to…
Strictly speaking, one of the moth family. The European Corn borer as it is commonly known, was indeed native to Europe but spread to the Americas, it has now populated both North America and Canada.
The Eggs are laid in clusters on the undersides of leaves. They look and develop much the same way Ladybug and other beetle eggs do. So it seems a tasty enough snack for Ladybugs.
Colorado Potato Beetle Eggs
The Potato beetle is not something a Ladybug could eat, but much like the eggs of the Corn Borer and other Ladybugs, the eggs of the Colorado Potato Beetle make an ideal snack. There are forty species of these in North America and around 10 of them in Mexico where in fact it originated from.
It seems that any creature that lays relatively small eggs in clusters under leaves are prone to attack – certainly from Ladybugs. But for Butterflies, as caterpillars eat the leaves chosen for laying on, I guess it’s a hazard they have to endure.
Butterfly eggs come in a whole array of shapes and sizes, most of which are ripe for dining on and most are similar to Ladybugs and all other eggs.
Like Butterly Eggs, moth eggs come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but the form is generally the same, certainly, if the eggs are small enough to consume and soft enough to get their mandibles into then it’s a good enough source of protein for the Ladybug
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Ladybugs Eat Larva
Like most predators in nature, Ladybirds will only tackle something that has fewer defenses than they can feasibly manage to overwhelm – with the tools they have available. For smaller ladybugs, there’s even less available prey simply because of their size limitations.
Once Larvae attain a good size then this can put them out of range for most Ladybugs, the sheer size means it’s too much of a fight. However, young ‘nymph’ larvae are fair game as they’re smaller. This does mean that for the first few days or a week, the Larvae are more at risk from Ladybirds.
So for this next list, assume that Larvae is mostly of the younger and smaller variety.
Corn Borer Larvae
Ranging from 2-20mm, whilst young enough the Ladybugs can feed on these. The corn borer can take around 50 days to reach maturity and mortality rates during this period are high, in part as Ladybugs and other creatures will predate on them whilst they’re young.
So there’s a good window of opportunity for a feast during this time. Once the corn borer establishes a feeding ground then they’re less likely to succumb to predators.
Caterpillars are an enormous source of protein, many birds hunt caterpillars and some are large enough to be a complete meal for the day. Because mortality rates are high for Caterpillars, Butterflies will often lay hundreds of eggs to mitigate against large potential losses
There’s a vast array out there and not all of them are potential meals for Ladybugs, some hatch larger than others, some are spiny and some have stinging capabilities and other defenses that a Ladybug could not get past.
It’s really down to your own common sense to know if the Caterpillar could be overwhelmed by a Ladybug or not.
Mites and Nymphs
Mites are small creatures – usually less than a millimeter in length. They’re a distant cousin to spiders (arachnids) and are often found feeding on plant-based material and are a source of food for many Ladybugs.
Many creatures do not enter the pupa stage, they simply molt until they reach their adult form, these are called Nymphs and there are many of them that the Ladybug would predate on. Again it’s down to size and defenses. Examples include dragonflies, locusts and mayflies.
Treat these the same as Caterpillars and are known as caterpillars. They come in many shapes and sizes and are prone to Ladybugs providing they can locate them as many moths and their caterpillar form are nocturnal or hideaway.
Including those of Cabbage Flies and Fly Maggots. Ladybugs can make short work of these if they’re small enough, and make for a really juicy meal (apparently!)
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Ladybugs Eat Insects and Bugs
Aphids are a ladybug’s most favored meal. They are very at home among an aphid colony and can take their pick and feast on the largest aphids available to them. So much so that they will stay around the vicinity of an aphid colony and often mate and lay eggs near to them.
These are very similar to Aphids in that they feed on hundreds of varieties of plants. Often smaller than Aphids at around 1 mm in length, they can be found on the underside of leaves and in large numbers.
Mealybugs are insects found in warmer climates and work operate similar to Aphids. often referred to as Scale insects, they’re sap-sucking insects and largely unprotected bodies mean they’re prone to Ladybugs, and a special favorite of the Malaysian Ladybird Beetle Chilocorus nigritus. Like Aphids, Mealybugs are often farmed by ants for their honeydew.
There are many types of leafhopper varieties, again they’re sap-sucking insects. They have hind legs that enable them to ‘hop’ from plant to plant – hence the name. If these are in the path of a Ladybug they are fair game.
Jumping Plant Lice
Along with the likes of Aphids and Whiteflies, Plant Lice are also considered part of a wider genre of Psyllidae, although this classification has since been broken down further it still encompasses the plant sap-sucking insects and bugs that Ladybugs would likely target.
Again these are plant feeders and part of the genre of Psyllidae. Although they have the ability to fly, if caught by a Ladybug, then they’re happy to make a meal of them.
image source: CC BY-SA 3.0
Thrips have lots of different names; thunder flies, thunder bugs, storm flies, thunder blights, storm bugs, corn fleas, corn flies, corn lice, freckle bugs, harvest bugs, and physopods.
They’re pretty small insects measuring up to 1mm in length. They have wings, but do not fly very well, preferring the clap and fling method of throwing their wings back and obtaining lift on the way down in order to get around – rather clumsily – but it works.
Ladybugs will make a quick meal of them when they find them.
These are small bugs measuring around ⅛ to ¼ inch in length. They are prevalent from the southern Canada Region through to central America so thriving in typically hot or tropical climates.
They range from red and brown to white and black coloring. They feed on the sap of many plants, and thrive in grasses too and are a pest to many farmers of Rye, Wheat, Corn, Barley, and Oats. so if you see a Ladybug on your lawn, it might be feeding on Chinch bugs.
Ladybugs Eat Fruit
Here’s a quick list of the types of fruit that Ladybugs eat, I’m pretty sure you don’t need me to explain each one
Should be said that Fruit is usually not the first choice for Ladybugs, except there are some species out there that do feed occasionally on fruit to supplement their diet, the Asian Lady Beetle, for example, is partial to grapes, it’s widely considered that fruit may form part of their diet, but not primarily their source of food.
Here are some, but most sweet, non-acidic foods will provide them with a power snack. This should not be taken as a constant diet as they do require protein but will sustain them as a supplement to their diet for long enough to observe them as pets –
Keep in mind that Ladybugs will only eat a very small amount, you won’t find a ladybug munching down an entire Raisin!
Do Ladybugs Eat Vegetables?
Not really, well, very few Ladybirds eat vegetables, which is why they can be such a beneficial insect to have in your garden and why they’re important to humans in general.
If Ladybugs were to eat too much by way of fruit and vegetables they would be considered a pest, but far from it. Ladybugs are an important garden friend to have around.
However, there are species of Ladybugs that do eat crops, namely
Epilachninae and Henosepilachna.
In fact, Epilachninae is one species of Ladybug that is considered a pest, the Mexican Bean Beetle Epilachna varivestis targets and lives only on bean plants. So beware of this species as this is actually considered a pest.
Ladybugs Eat Plant-Based Materials
Nectar and Pollen
As a supplement to their main diet (mainly aphids) Ladybugs will occasionally eat nectar for the sweetness and pollen for its vitamin-rich sources too.
Fungi & Mildew
There are certain Ladybugs that feed on plant-based material only, some of these have mandibles specifically designed to scrape Fungi and Mildew of plant leaves and stems. The Fungus eating Ladybird Illeis galbula is one such variety. They’re yellow with black marking and adults are about 4-5 mm in length.
Other Ladybug Food
Honeydew is the rather tasty sounding name given to something not so tasty. It’s what is secreted by bugs like Aphids and Mealybugs. As they feed on plant sap it produces a sticky sweet substance favored by other creatures such as Ants.
This is why Aphids and Mealybugs often form part of Ant farms. It’s a symbiotic relationship, whereby Aphids are afforded greater protection from the ants, and in return, the ants obtain their Honeydew for food.
Ladybugs do not actively seek honey, it’s on the list as something that can be given to ‘pet Ladybugs’ as a supplement to their diet. Remember they are small, they will only eat a fraction of honey and feeding it to them is only designed to sustain them whilst you study them – before releasing back into the wild.
What Do Ladybugs Feed on Inside My House?
Ladybug infestation has become a fairly common thing. In North America, the Asian Lady Beetle is referred to as the ‘Halloween Bug’ because it congregates in huge numbers in people’s houses during the month of October.
The Asian ladybug tends to hibernate during the winter seasons and find warmth in crevices and cracks of buildings, from where they may find a way to sneak into your home. Recently, Asian ladybug infestation in homes has been a nuisance to many. There have been reports of thousands of ladybugs being found in homes. In fact, A US site recorded a congregation of some 20,000 Asian ladybugs being found from a home.
Once the Asian ladybugs get into your home, they often tend to aggregate on windows or hide inside cracks and crevices. Since they have a “reflex bleeding mechanism” of excreting a pungent yellow liquid when triggered, they leave behind stains on walls and furniture that are hard to remove.
However, they usually don’t tend to eat anything inside your house; they just need a shelter to overwinter. During the hibernation period, ladybugs don’t eat anything and live off their own stored body fats. They usually keep themselves hydrated by drinking water from any source, which is why they prefer moist environments where condensation may appear.
So, ladybugs infesting your home most often don’t eat anything and won’t cause too much harm aside from the annoyance of lots of them being around. As spring comes ladybugs leave your house.
A slight cause of concern, though, is that when so many of these ladybugs are inside your house over winter, many of them will pass away as they reach the end of their life cycle. you may develop an allergic reaction from being around the dust of the remains, or whilst they’re around you may find you get bitten by them.
While the Asian ladybug bite isn’t harmful, it does give a slight pinch and leave a red mark. To some, this is a sign of good luck! But in very rare cases it can cause an allergic reaction. The most common allergic reaction is ’rhinoconjunctivitis’ caused by touching a ladybug and then rubbing your eyes with that hand.
What To Feed a Pet Ladybug
Having a ladybug infestation in your home is one thing and having a ladybug as a pet is another. When ladybugs infest your home, it is usually to overwinter (spend the winter) and find shelter.
However, when you keep a ladybug as a pet you need to look after its needs and provide it with food to feed on. You can use a terrarium or a jar with perforated lid (to keep air flowing) to keep your ladybug – but keep any jars out of direct sunlight to avoid them overheating.
Adorn it with some leaves and twigs to make them feel more at home. Since ladybugs thrive in the humid environment its best to keep the humidity high by constantly spritzing water on the leaves.
Coming over to what to feed ladybugs; you don’t have to worry about providing insect for your ladybug to feed on, soaked raisins, lettuce, and honey work just as well in satiating their appetite. See the above list of alternative fruits you can feed them.
While feeding them remember how tiny they are and abstain from overfeeding; feeding twice a day is ideal. To give water to your spotted pet, just keep a damp cotton ball and it will have it as and when needed. Remember to never put a water container next to your ladybug to prevent it from drowning.
The easiest thing to say here is ‘now you know’. It’s by no means an exhaustive list, but it at least provides a good overview of what you’d find on a Ladybug menu!
I’d love to add to the list, or indeed amend it if you see something incorrect. So do send me any photos you have or things you may have seen, I’ll check them out and add them where I can.
Do spiders eat ladybugs? Yes, some species of spiders do prey on ladybugs. For example, Cellar Spiders and Joro spiders are known to have caught and fed on Ladybugs.