The Meanings of the Colors of Ladybugs

Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Ladybugs or lady beetles (Coccinellidae) are some of the most attractive insects in the world, what with their round forms and vivid coloration. Their intense coloring has meaning far beyond pure aesthetics, however. It functions as valuable protection against potential predators. Ladybug coloring is actually ladybug self-defense.

Range of Coloring

Although ladybugs are often thought of as being red, they also appear in a multitude of other colors depending on their species. These colors include both orange and yellow. To a lesser degree, they include black, gray, pink and blue, too. Ladybugs also feature flecks on the upper parts of their wings, whether in pink, red, black, yellow or white. Many ladybugs just have two flecks, while many others have as many as 13. Ladybugs occasionally can be totally fleck-free. Seven spotted ladybugs (Coccinella septempunctata) are especially prevalent in the United States. These ladybugs have glossy black and red physiques. Whatever the exact color scheme and design, ladybugs are physically conspicuous creatures. Predators frequently are able to notice them from far away.

"Stay Away"

Ladybug coloration is a survival adaptation that frequently encourages predators to leave them alone. Their unforgettable physical appearance notifies predators that they not only have a disagreeable sharp taste, they also also often are toxic. When ladybugs experience physical contact with other animals and therefore feel disturbed, their limb joints tend to release strongly pungent yellowish poisonous substances.

Predator Dangers

As with most animals, ladybugs aren't exempt to the threats of predators. Their predators sometimes are successful. Sometimes their striking coloration frightens predators to the point that they escape, and other times, not so much. Some of the types of animals that routinely attempt to prey on them are parasitic wasps, arthropods, tiny mammals and birds. It also isn't at all rare for fellow ladybugs to dine on each other. Ladybugs in general don't experience a lot of predation once they're fully mature, however. Predation is markedly more common in the youngsters.

Other Useful Protection

Although the distinctive ladybug coloration indeed helps keep a lot of predators at bay, these insects have a couple of other protective adaptations up their sleeves. These adaptations are useful in the event that predators actually approach them. The upper portions of ladybugs' bodies are extremely tough and hard to the touch, which helps keep their fragile bodies and wings below safe. When ladybugs are in the company of predators, they often act as if they're dead, remaining totally motionless. They then proceed to emit the aforementioned toxins.

    Photo Credits

    • Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images