Ladybugs are lovely for so many reasons. Not only are these little critters cute, they go hog wild on garden pests. But there are so many kinds, it’s hard to tell which ones inhabit your landscape. Here are some ladybird basics to help you identify these helpful garden visitors.

Two-spotted ladybird beetle

Two-spotted ladybird beetle, Adalia bipunctata

Native to North America and Europe, these adult beetles have red wings with two black or brown spots, and their dome-shaped bodies are 4-5 millimeters (mm) long. They overwinter as adults and come out in early to midspring, and they can live for one or two years. Adults and larvae both feed on many soft-bodied pests in the garden, like aphids. The beetle is commercially available from insectaries.

Photo Credit: ©2006 Buglady Consulting

Twice-stabbed ladybird beetle

Twice-stabbed ladybird beetle, Chilocorus stigma

These cute little ladybugs are black with two red spots on their backs – just the opposite of the two-spotted ladybird beetle. They’re small – just 3¾-5 mm – but they’re very aggressive feeders. Their diet is primarily scales, which can be nasty insect pests to control. You can often find these ladybugs hunting for their next meal in trees.

Photo Credit: ©2006 Buglady Consulting

Seven-spotted ladybird beetle

Seven-spotted ladybird beetle, Coccinella septempunctata

Unlike many other ladybird beetles, this 7-mm-long insect has an odd number of spots on its back, with one spot normally split right in half between its two wings. This European native has been repeatedly released in North America as a biological control agent to feed on pest aphids, and it’s now established in North America.

Photo Credit: ©2006 Buglady Consulting

Pink spot ladybird beetle

Pink spot ladybird beetle, Coleomegilla maculata

Another North American native, these beetles can be found throughout the eastern US and Canada and as far west as the Midwest. They can be pink to red and are 5-6 mm long. The adult “pinks” are oval-shaped. As much as 50 percent of their diet can be pollen, so if you want to attract these helpful insects to your garden, be sure to have lots of flowering plants!

Photo Credit: ©2006 Buglady Consulting

Mealybug destroyer

Mealybug destroyer, Cryptolaemus montrouzieri

This beetle is a specialized feeder – it loves to munch on mealybugs and other soft scales, and it was brought to the US from Australia in 1891 to control citrus mealybug. This aggressive feeder is 3-4 mm long and has a dark brown body and orange head. The larvae are white and fluffy. These ladybugs are often purchased from commercial insectaries and released in lieu of using pesticides.

Photo Credit: ©2006 Buglady Consulting

Multicolored Asian lady beetle

Multicolored Asian lady beetle, Harmonia axyridis

A native to Asia, this beetle was originally released in the US to help control pests, and it’s established itself extensively. Since it feeds on many species of soft-bodied insects, including aphids, scales and psyllids, this beneficial insect is considered to be a very good friend to gardeners. The adults are 6 mm long, slightly oval and come in many shades of red and orange. The number of spots can very greatly – and sometimes they don’t even have spots. They can be identified by the “m” or “w” on the backs of their heads.

Photo Credit: ©2002 Buglady Consulting

Convergent ladybird beetle

Convergent ladybird beetle, Hippodamia convergens

This is one of the most commonly known native ladybird beetles in the US. The adults are elongated and measure 4-7 mm long. They can be identified by the prominent black-and-white patterns on their heads, and the spots on their red wings can number from just a few up to as many as 13. These ladybugs feed on many insect pests. They’re often offered for sale, but they’re collected from the wild, which isn’t a very sustainable practice.

Photo Credit: ©2002 Buglady Consulting

Spider mite destroyer

Spider mite destroyer, Stethorus sp.

This is one small beetle! It only measures 1½ mm long, but that doesn’t mean it can’t eat a lot! This ladybug loves to feed on spider mites, and the adults can consume 75 to 100 mites per day. A US native, they can often be found feeding among high numbers of spider mites in landscapes and orchards. The adults are solid black and are covered with tiny hairs.

Photo Credit: ©2002 Buglady Consulting

Whether you call them ladybird beetles or ladybugs, these insects are guests you definitely want to keep on your garden invitation list. Learning a little about these beneficial creatures can help you properly identify them – and determine which plants to add to your yard if you want these good guys to join the garden party.