We were able to travel to Prescott, Arizona last weekend. Not only was it cool, but we got some rain in the night. Early the next morning the plants and insects both were wet. We saw a lot of interesting wildlife, and I actually overwhelmed my poor camera at one point.
This is a native ladybug or lady beetle known as the convergent lady beetle, because of the white lines on the thorax that slant towards the center (although I guess from another point of view it could be the divergent lady beetle). It carried a rain drop for quite a ways.
On the same plant, a few branches away, was a larger lady beetle with a rough “M” on it’s thorax. This is the introduced multicolored Asian lady beetle. The Asian lady beetle is the one that comes into houses in the fall to spend the winter indoors. The convergent lady beetles also cluster together, but usually choose outdoor locations. This beetle had smaller droplets of water.
In the same location, we also saw some white-lined sphinx moths flitting from flower to flower, like insect hummingbirds. I hope to get some pictures of their large yellow or green and black-striped caterpillars which are probably feeding on desert weeds about this time of year. If you scroll down the page at Caterpillars of Southeastern Arizona you will see a picture of one. Click on the word adult for a photo of the moth.
When they have finished eating and are looking for a place to pupate in the soil, these caterpillars can migrate in large numbers. To people who don’t know what they are or haven’t seen them before, it can be quite alarming. As with many insects. however, it doesn’t take them long to find a good place to dig into the soil and they will disappear.
Books for more information on ladybugs:
For young children try “Are You a Ladybug?” Like the rest of this series, the book compares humans and ladybugs in an informative and gently humorous way.
Although the title of this First Discovery Book is “The Ladybug and Other Insects,” it really is mostly about ladybugs. Some of the pages are clear with illustrations on them. When flipped they show things like the underside of the ladybug. These books in this series are great fun, and my son still enjoys flipping through them even though he is well past the targeted age range.
This is a newer version of the same book in paperback.
“Face to Face With the Ladybug” is a bit more detailed and is for the older child.
Recent research shows that yes Ladybugs do migrate at the end of the summer/early fall, but if the Do-it-your self farmer/gardener can improve the stay of their friendly Ladybug herd by providing them a nesting box, home or house. They eat other insects besides aphids like plant lice, whitefly and scale insects. Two years of research show that most ladybugs leave to look for a home they make home from a squirrel hollowed out hole in a tree where they become pray from birds. I have had good luck with a house designed for the Convergent lady beetle, Scientific name: Hippodamia convergens, which is native to California. The Best Lady Bug House takes in consideration of their basic needs: Location, Food, Shelter, Protection , and a nourishing Environment.
Thanks for this helpful information.
Faithful readers from the Phoenix area, just remember that it is pretty hot here. Putting up things like bird boxes and bat boxes for nesting just doesn’t work like it does in other areas. Readers from other climes might want to give it a try, especially if they have the kind of insect pests that lady beetles eat.