Why do ladybugs have spots?
When you think of a ladybug, you probably have a picture in your mind of a little beetle that is bright red with several black spots on it. That is how most people picture ladybugs and these are the most well known of all of the ladybug species.
Not all ladybugs have black spots on them, though, and not all ladybugs are red, either. There are many different species of ladybugs and they all look a little different in their colors and patterns. But since you, and most people, think of a ladybug as the red, spotted variety, you might wonder why ladybugs have their spots and what they mean.
The reason that entomologists think that ladybugs have such brilliant red coloring and black spots is to warn their predators that they taste really bad and that they are a little bit poisonous, too.
Think about other colorful, uniquely marked insects. Bumble bees are bright yellow and black striped and can be seen coming from a mile away it seems. Not very many animals want to eat bumble bees because of their poisonous and hurtful stinger. Bumble bees can’t tell predators that they will hurt them if they are eaten, but their bright colors let predators know to stay away from them.
Frogs are usually green and brown and they can blend in with their surroundings. That is their defense from predators because they can’t fight back with poison or stingers. These frogs have to hide from their predators instead. But some frogs are very poisonous to predators. They have poison in their skin that is enough to kill a large bird that might otherwise eat them. These poisonous frogs don’t have to hide, but nature lets the birds know not to eat them anyway by giving these frogs bright yellow, red, orange, and black patterns.
This is the same concept for the bright colors of a ladybug. A ladybug’s body has a substance in it that tastes really bad to birds and other predators, and it is a little bit poisonous. Probably not poisonous enough to kill a bird, but enough to make it pretty sick for a while. Once a bird eats the first ladybug it will get so sick that it won’t ever want to eat another one, and it will remember the unique colors and spots of the ladybug and stay far away from them.
There are lots of myths around the world about ladybugs and their spots. If a ladybug lands on you in Brussels, the spots on that ladybug tells you how many children you will have. Many farmers around the world have believed that the spots on a ladybug tells the fortune of the next harvest, if there are less than seven spots, the harvest will be good. Some people believe that if a ladybug lands on you, you can count the spots and you will soon receive dollars in the same amount as the spots. Believe what you want about ladybug spots, but the fact is they just make ladybugs the cutest beetle in the world.
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The ladybugs have different patterns
This ladybug doesn’t have ANY spots
(photo by Dan Parsons)
A ladybug can be BLACK with RED spots
This ladybug has tons of spots