Friday, April 01, 2011

Ladybug, ladybug, fly ...

... or walkcreep, if you don't feel up to flight at the moment.

This ladybug, the first we've seen this year, landed on Laurie's leg, just outside of the Tim Horton's in Tsawwassen. I took her inside to see if I could identify her; I would have to count her spots and get a good look at her pronotum, the shield between the head and the wing covers. She was quite agitated, and raced around the table. Twice she flew away, only to land on the window behind me. So I brought her home in a bottle Laurie had in his pocket.

Slow down! I can't count your spots!

She's a Multicoloured Asian Lady Beetle, Harmonia axyridis, an imported species. The defining characteristic is the more or less "W" shaped mark on the pronotum. These ladybugs are extremely variable,* with anywhere from no spots to 18, like this one, and in any combination of yellow, black, orange, red, and white.

At home, she came out of her bottle running, and wouldn't stop. Back in the bottle, she went into the fridge to cool off and, I hoped, go to sleep.

I've had trouble with beetles; they're tough little beasties. Often, I take one, sound asleep, out of the fridge, and before I've got the camera focused, it's awake and running again. So I put a light cloth over an ice pack, and park the beetle there. It works, sometimes.

This little lady was closed down tight, legs folded against the belly, antennae at rest. On the cold pack, she sat still. For all of 30 seconds. Then she unfolded one front leg.


Next, she started to walk. Slowly. Really s  l  o  w  l  y. About 20 seconds per step.

10 seconds. All legs extended.

14 more seconds. Stepping forward.

8 more seconds. Front leg moves back. Middle leg moves forward.

Each little leg moves in its turn; first, middle, last. And the sides alternate; left front, right front, left middle, etc. An interesting, rather complicated gait. (Compare it to the gait of horses, tigers, cats, us, centipedes.)
Because it allows for rapid yet stable movement, many insects adopt a tripedal gait in which they walk with their legs touching the ground in alternating triangles. Wikipedia.
I think that's what the ladybug is doing. Front-left, rear-left, middle-right, all down at the same time, then the other three.

And so it went, for about a minute; barely one complete round. Then her motors revved up, and she went back to running mode. Now, she's chasing around in her bottle on my desk, waiting for the sunrise, when I'll put her out in the garden.

*For other variants, see BugGuide, and this post.


  1. I never would have thought to watch how an insect walks. I'm so glad I only have two legs ... I would get so very confused!

    She's a beautiful ladybug - I saw my first one this week too! I never would have thought to count the spots, or even that there was more than one kind! Such things I learn from you!

    I also love your color wheel post. All those beautiful colors popping out right now ... well, almost!

  2. It's neat to know that the same species can have any variable of spots. :)

  3. Fabulous photos!
    \I love them. Well done.
    Our granddaughter's nickname is French for ladybug. So cute. We've bought everything we can that has then on it. So much fun!
    Isabelle Coccinelle [Coxinelle].

  4. I like how you used a cloth-covered icepack to cool it down and how you explained the walking. Very interesting post!

  5. well... i'm an animal/nature lover and while i'm all for learning i can't help but wonder why you'd capture this poor little defenceless bug and take it 15 miles away from her home to set it free. Isn't the first rule in handling nature - leave it alone?
    She was so spunky and determined to get away, she wanted to get back to her own world and who knows, maybe her house was on fire and her children all alone. How will she ever find her family now?

  6. Lorraina,
    I understand your concern. I am careful never to move something to an unfavourable environment.

    But these ladybugs, the Asian Lady Beetle, are imports. Gardening supply houses bring them in large quantities from overseas to help control aphids in people's gardens. (They do eat aphids, but they usually fly away, and eat them in someone else's place.)

    They have found a good home here, and have spread all over the lower mainland. This one will be perfectly happy in my garden, or maybe in the vacant lot across the way.

    She won't have a family to worry about, depsite the nursery rhyme. Ladybugs lay eggs in the spring and leave them to their fate.

    Oh, and defenceless? Not quite. They do bite, if annoyed.

  7. Oh! Thanks for the info Susannah; i didn't know that. I think i was in a bad mood. so sorry about that.


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