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Looking for the Lost Ladybug

Looking for the Lost Ladybug

Scientists are asking children, adults, families, educators and everyone from two to 102-years-old to join a citizens-science group to help our ladybugs.

Ladybugs were once one of the most common bugs found across the U.S. and Canada.  Controlling pests that attack farm harvests, balancing the ecosystems in forests and fields, their industriousness is an important part of the ecosystem.

During the past two decades as invasive look-alike ladybugs expanded their territories and pollution and habitat loss have crowded them out, species of Native ladybugs began vanishing and the invasive species began increasing. These include the multicolored Asian ladybug, checkerboard ladybug and the seven-spotted ladybug.

The larger, rounder multicolored Asian ladybug had been introduced as a biological control for scale bugs then mass produced across the lands. It even eats ladybug larvae. The checkerboard ladybug, which is small and yellow, hitched a ride from Europe through the St. Lawrence River in the 1960s and has since been traveling steadily southward. The seven-spotted ladybug, also from Europe, came to North America in 1956. Its population extended its range as the Native nine-spotted and two-spotted began disappearing.

“This has happened very quickly and we don’t know how this shift happened, what impact it will have, and how we can prevent more native species from becoming so rare,” said John E. Losey, Cornell University entomologist.

In June 2007 the Lost Ladybug collaborators, headed by Losey, received a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand the program throughout New York and extend it nationally. Their goal is to use citizen science to bring more participation in the search for the bugs. The ladybugs are collected into vials with twigs and drops of water. The date, time and place they were found are written down.  The discoveries are placed on a gray square and their pictures are taken. Digital images are sent to the projects website, or color prints can be mailed to the university. The ladybugs are returned to where they were found.

The database will help scientists understand the shifting changes on earth, help farmers with crops and further understanding of rare species and the ecosystems in which they live.  There are more than 5,000 species of ladybugs around the earth. About 450 are Native to North America.  It’s not yet known if the new species inhabiting the continent will serve the same function or favor the same habitats as the native species.

In turn, youth will learn about the place of the ladybug in the community of nature and the importance of biodiversity and conservation for the web of life through hands-on participation in research. Educational materials, books, collection viles and nets are provided through Cornell University. 

The project’s website will post instructions for finding collection sites, making nets, photographing ladybugs, submitting data and uploading photos. The website will also offer an automated identification feature to provide people with real-time feedback on species that have been collected. Ladybug lore, myths, songs and culturally based stories are being posted to explain the relationships between ladybugs, pests and our food.

As of this year, more than 3,000 ladybugs will be in the new data display sent in by hundreds of participants across the U.S. and Canada.

For more information visit the Lost Ladybug Project.

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11:31PM PST on Feb 27, 2014


9:32AM PST on Nov 28, 2011

thanks for the info

2:49AM PDT on Oct 22, 2009

Interesting that in a relatively small area like the UK there seems to be a large regional difference in quantities ...
here in the North West of England I have spoken to quite a few people who agree with me that there seems to have been far fewer Ladybirds this year, and yet only 200 miles + South there seems to have been a glut !
I remember the very hot summer of 1976 whilst on holiday on the South Coast of England people were purchasing fine mesh nets to keep the HUGE amount of ladybirds out of the air grilles on the front of vehicles; the roads were alive with a never ending carpet of ladybirds on the surface.
I don't think I've seen more than 10 in total all year in my garden this year !
Usually I carefully coax them onto a leaf and transfer them to my rose bushes in the front garden where they can feast on the many aphids
attacking the rose buds!
When ever possible I try to NOT use insecticides, preferring this beautiful aphid eating machine, the Ladybird !

1:50PM PDT on Oct 16, 2009

That's ridiculous! Why would anyone give a two million dollar grant to a group searching for ladybugs?

4:32PM PDT on Oct 14, 2009

You don't believe this - they can even become a plague. Here in Germany we had such an invasuion of these bugs in June - you want to start your car in the morning and they cover the whole wind screen that you can hardly see anything - what do you say to this ?

8:38AM PDT on Sep 30, 2009

I see that this is based in North America so maybe the problem is different over there. I am sick of people in the UK telling me there is a shortage when there clearly is not and I thought this was yet another one of those.

Sorry for the confusion.

8:35AM PDT on Sep 30, 2009

This is just getting rediculous now!
I am a gardener in Cambridgeshire. I fill my van on a daily basis with the cuttings from shrubs, trees and hedges. As I drive home I have to have the windows open to let out the spiders and Lady bugs!
I am inundated with them.

Scientists live in laboritories or research in controlled environments, they know nothing of what is really going on.
There is no Ladybug shortage in the UK. They are everywhere and all you have to do to find them is look. Even my 20 month old son finds them crawling in the grass.

Now for Godsake let this be an end to it.

8:46AM PDT on Sep 29, 2009

Kim, here's a link to some of the different kinds from the project...

8:29AM PDT on Sep 29, 2009

The ladybugs that are in your house are the bigger ones from Asia. The native ones that we can't find around the US any more are the smaller more red ones, and you won't find them in your house. I hope we can find our native ladybugs! Is there a place we can order them and release them in our gardens?

7:50AM PDT on Sep 29, 2009

For the last several years I have been bombarded with ladybugs, but I'm not exactly sure what kind they are. They get lighter as fall progresses.
Can anyone post some of the different species for me?
If they get inside our house, we try to put them back outside in a safe place.

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