Everyone recognizes lady beetles and welcomes them into their gardens. Unfortunately baby lady beetles look nothing like they do as adults. Ladybug nymphs resemble tiny black alligators, about ½ in length, with red, orange or white markings. In fact, their appearance can be quite alarming and tempt you to reach for the spray can. Dont do it.
Lady beetles overwinter as adults in dry, protected areas such as tree bark, house shingles or even indoors in attics. They come out from cover in early spring and begin feeding and laying eggs right away. One female lady beetles can lay up to 1,000 eggs over a 3 month period. When the young lady beetles emerge from the eggs as nymphs, they look like the picture at right and begin feeding immediately.
Before you say yuck, consider that one nymph will eat about 400 aphids during the 3 weeks before it pupates. According to Ohio State University Extension, as an adult lady beetle it will eat more than 5,000 aphids in its lifetime! They go on to say that while their favorite food seems to be aphids, lady beetles will also prey on soft scale, whitefly pupa, thrips and spider mites, if no aphids are available.
So dont panic when you see these prehistoric looking creatures on your plants. They are definitely one of the good bugs.