After 29 years, the nine-spotted ladybug — Coccinella novemnotata, the state insect of New York — has been sighted. Peter Priolo, a volunteer participant with the Lost Ladybug Project, found the long-unseen ladybug on July 30 in a patch of sunflowers at the Quail Hill Organic Farm that is part of the 10,000 acre Peconic Land Trust in Amagansett on Long Island.
“I didn’t realize it was a nine-spotted when I found it,” Mr. Priolo said. He was on his way to do an end-of-the-day ladybug tally, so, he said, “I put it in my jar and hurried back to meet with everybody.”
Good thing he did: Back in 2006, the New York State Assembly, on realizing it had been so many years since the nine-spotted ladybug had been seen in New York state, attempted to name another species of ladybug as the state insect. Fortunately, that bill never went to the New York Senate and eventually “fell victim to legislative inaction.”
Cornell University entomologist John Losey runs the Lost Ladybug Project and has confirmed Priolo’s finding. Indeed, 20 more ladybugs have since been found on Quail Hill Organic Farm and Losey was able to collect enough ladybugs at the Amagansett site to establish a colony which is now thriving in his lab:
As of 2006, only five nine-spotted ladybugs had been found in North America in the previous 10 years, none of them in the East. Then one lone ladybug was found in Arlington, Va. None had been found in the East since, and only 90 have been reported in North America.
It is the native species that is in trouble. Others, like Asian ladybugs, which were imported for pest control, are thriving in New York State and elsewhere, and can often be found gathering in or on houses in the fall. These Asian bugs and a species from Europe could be a reason for the decline of some native species, though Dr. Losey said the loss of farmland could be another reason.
Losey underscores that
“This is a major discovery made by citizen scientists. The nine-spotted ladybug is extremely rare and almost exclusively found in the west.”
This video is about the search for lost ladybugs and the key role citizen scientists can play.
The re-discovery of the ladybug is a testament to the important role we — kids as well as adults — can all play in helping scientists track the whereabouts of rare species and preserve the ever-threatened diversity of animals here on earth.
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