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The Lost Ladybug Project

The Lost Ladybug Project

Ever wondered what’s up with all the ladybugs hanging out in your house during the winter?Read this fascinating labybug blog from Rebecca Heller-Steinberg at NOFA-NY's Certification Office

At a recent meeting, I met Leslie Allee from The Lost Ladybug Project (LLP) and she told me that most ladybugs that overwinter indoors are the non-native Multicolored Asian ladybug, Harmonia axyridis, which was originally introduced from Japan for biological control of other insects. (The rare native two-spotted ladybug, Adalia bipunctata, also overwinters indoors but it's pretty easy to tell apart.) Leslie also said that numbers of native ladybugs have drastically declined in the last 20 years while populations of their non-native counterparts have boomed. The LLP is focused on figuring out why this is happening and what impacts it may have.

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One really neat thing about the Lost Ladybug Project is that it is a citizen science project. Dr. Rebecca Rice Smyth from the LLP told me that before the project was started, entomologists were aware of the changes in ladybug populations but were having trouble locating some native species, including the NY state insect, the nine-spotted ladybug, Coccinella novemnotata. By asking citizens to find and photograph ladybugs, the LLP has gathered a larger pool of data about where rare native ladybugs are present and in what quantities. Anyone can participate by going to the Lost Ladybug Project website (www.lostladybug.org), learning about the different types, and submitting ladybug photos and information through the website or the free LLP app. Organic farms and gardens are especially great places to gather data because they are likely to have more ladybugs present.

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I asked the LLP to tell me more about ladybugs sold for pest control. They are Hippodamia convergens, a species native to the west that is gathered in the mountains of Calfornia and sometimes Texas. Although these ladybugs are native to the U.S., they are not native to this part of the country. Using this species in screened greenhouses is fairly effective, but using them for pest control outdoors is often not because most of them tend to fly away. Although ladybugs can be a very effective pest management tool for farmers, and a great alternative to sprays, harvesting a native species from elsewhere is not a very sustainable practice, especially in times of drought, which affects ladybug populations.

The good news is that the LLP is working on breeding the native nine-spotted ladybug. This species is well suited to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, eats more pests, and doesn't tend to fly away like Hippodamia convergens. The LLP will soon have nine-spotted ladybugs available for sale on their website for around $50 for 50 larvae. As their breeding techniques improve, they hope to have larger numbers of ladybugs available at a lower cost. At this point they are mainly trying to increase the population of this species and to gather more data. They are also conducting a few on-farm trials this year to see how well these ladybugs work for pest control and under what circumstances (farmers interested in participating in trials should contact LLP at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

I'm looking forward to identifying, photographing, and submitting some ladybugs to the LLP this summer and I hope you'll join me in doing so!

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