The bug that most bug-haters love is starting to disappear. Ladybugs that are native to the United States are slowly becoming out-numbered by foreign ladybugs and no one knows why.
A nationwide search for native ladybugs was recently started by The Lost Ladybug Project. They want to know the reason behind this phenomenon and they need everyone's help. If you see a ladybug, they ask that you take a photo and send it to their research lab to add to their database of ladybug photos. The nine-spotted ladybug is the species that seems to be disappearing and the species researchers want to learn most about. To spot this ladybug, look for nine black spots on its back. Since there are more than 5,000 species out there, it might be hard to tell if a ladybug has the right amount of spots. Even if you aren’t sure if it’s a nine-spotted ladybug, send the picture anyway. Any information will help researchers at Cornell University learn more about this issue. (As of June 4, 2010, the project has received 6,253 photo contributions!)
When you take a photo of the ladybug, be sure to get as much of its backside as possible.
Photo by Neeku/Courtesy Flickr
But, aren’t ladybugs used in nature only to look pretty? What’s the big deal if the native North Americans ladybugs become more and more rare as the years go on? It’s all about the ecosystem. (It’s called a system for a reason!) Ladybugs eat small, soft insects called aphids. Aphids are an enemy to gardeners because of their destructive eating habits. Without the hard-working ladybug, tiny aphids could destroy a farmer’s crop. In fact, according to an old European belief, the ladybug brings luck and good weather to farmers.
This citizen research project is a great way to get the kids involved. The Lost Ladybug Project website offers fun facts about the history of the ladybug and a The Lost Ladybug coloring book for the kids to print at home. They even have the Lost Ladybug Song that you can download to make searching for the little insects a bit more fun for the tykes.
So get involved and help the little red bugs and the researchers from the Lost Ladybug Project by keeping an eye out for them when you’re outside. Who knows, they might bring you a little luck.
Have you joined the Lost Ladybug Project? Keep us updated with the ladybugs discovered in your herb garden!