Food habits or preferences and protecting or encouraging of native ladybugs (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae)
Of all the predaceous beetle insects, feasibly the most familiar to non-specialists is the ladybug family Coccinellidae of order Coleoptera. Due to the familiarity and economic significance of Coccinellidae, this article deals with information concerning food habits or preferences and protecting or encouraging of native coccinellids. It is widely known fact that this charismatic group includes many beneficial species that are voracious predators of pestiferous aphids and scale insects which feed on plant juices so farmers like to ladybugs because they help the plant to stay alive. Ladybugs also known as ladybeetles or ladybird beetles are familiar insects that can be classified as an omnivore because they feed on leaves, fungus and insects. Ladybugs find their food by sensing it with their antennae that help them to find and sense their food. Ladybugs in their larval and adult stages eat aphids, mealy bugs, soft scales, psyllids (jumping plant lice), whiteflies, mites, and other pest insects. Findings suggest that one ladybug can eat nearly 1,000 aphids in its lifetime and several hundred lady beetles are sufficient to get rid of most soft-bodied insect pests in a modest garden. However, not all ladybug species are carnivores, though some of these also eat pollen, mildew or mushrooms, and a few eat plants and are pests themselves. But, most ladybugs are predators and a welcome sight to gardeners or farmers. Ladybug eggs are small and yellow and usually laid on the backside of a leaf, near aphid colonies. This ensures that young ladybug larvae can have a food source as soon as they hatch. Ladybugs also lay eggs that are infertile or would not hatch amongst the fertile eggs thus to serve as first meal for their offspring. Ladybugs larvae and adults may supplement their normal prey in times of scarcity with other types of food. However, when an artificial sugar solution is applied to plant foliage in an attempt to further supplement food, then ladybugs are attracted. Clearly our understanding of the trophic requirements of this group is not comprehensive and a more complete understanding would lend further insights into the transition from predatory to mycophagous habits within this clade.