The Seven Spot Ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata) is a small red beetle that has seven different shaped black spots on each wing case. These wing cases are known as elytra and the patterns of the spots are identical on both sides making the cases look like mirror images. The bright red colour and black spots help to warn predators that the ladybirds are not very tasty and a bit poisonous too. The ladybird has a poisonous substance in its body which is released through its legs if it is captured by a bird for example. The poison not only tastes awful to birds but it also makes them feel sick so they keep well away from ladybirds. Humans on the other hand seem to like these pretty looking beetles, not to eat of course, but to look at and many people believe that if a ladybird lands on you it will bring you luck!
Seven Spot Ladybirds can be found throughout the UK almost anywhere from gardens, meadows, fields, woodlands, hedgerows and even in towns and cities. They are often known as the ‘gardener’s best friend’ because the ladybird’s favourite food is aphids which is a type of lice considered to be a pest to plants. Ladybirds also eat other soft insects such as mites and white flies which are also seen as pests by gardeners. The Seven Spot Ladybirds find their food by using their antennae which help them to smell and feel their way around. It is a good job ladybirds have these antennae seeing that they have terrible eyesight.
Female ladybirds release their own individual pheromone which is a chemical substance that attracts males. When a couple find each other they mate and interestingly the female can lay her eggs up to three months later. The female ladybird often lays clusters of ten to fifteen tiny jelly-bean shaped eggs under a leaf so the eggs are not on show to flying predators. The eggs are laid in a place where there is lots of aphids so that when the larvae hatch out they will have enough to eat. After about two weeks the larvae start to look like a little shrimps and this is the time when they attach themselves to leaves and rest for a few days so that they can go through metamorphosis and turn into fully grown adults. When ladybirds first emerge out of their larvae skin they are a pinkish colour and their wing cases are soft. The wing cases harden after a couple of hours and it is during this stage that they turn a bright red colour.