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Ladybird Beetles: A Brief History Behind the Name "Lady"

Ladybird Beetles: A Brief History Behind the Name "Lady"

Ladybirds from the family Coccinellidae Latreille, 1807 are also commonly known as Ladybugs in North America, but are actually not true bugs but beetles. That is why some prefer to use the name ladybird beetles rather than ladybugs to avoid any confusion caused by the misnomer. Ladybirds are one of the few insects that are not actively disliked as they are often seen feeding on aphids and can be pretty useful insects for getting rid of these agricultural pests. However, those in the subfamily Epilachninae do feed on the leaves of certain crops as well.

Etymology

The name "ladybird" originated in Britain because early paintings often portrayed Mary (Our Lady) wearing a red cloak or veil. The most common ladybird in Europe - the seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) - had spots that were said to symbolize her seven joys and seven sorrows. According to an old European legend, farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary asking for help to save them from the pests devouring their crops, and she sent a swarm of tiny beetles bearing her trademark coat to eat them. Hence, this family of insects became known as "Our Lady's Bird" or what we now know as the Lady Beetle. [1]

Many countries had different names for these beetles, and some had similar references to God, Virgin Mary or cows, perhaps drawing similarities from the cow's spots. [2]
  • Germany: Marienkäfer (Mary’s beetle)
  • France: la bete a bon Dieu (good God's animal)
  • Russia: Bozhya korovka (God’s little cow)
  • Greece: paschalitsa (little Easter)
  • Portugal: joaninha (little Joanne)
  • Spain: mariquita (little Maria)
  • Wales: buwch goch gota (small red cow)
  • Scotland: daolag-bhreac (speckled beetle)
  • Slovenia: pikapolonica (spotty bug)
  • Argentina: Vaquita de San Antonio (St. Anthony’s small cow)

The family's scientific name Coccinellidae is derived from the word coccineus in Latin, which means "scarlet", as the most common ladybirds then were typically brilliant red in colour.

Checklist

This page consists of a personal checklist of all Ladybirds / Ladybugs / Lady Beetles / Coccinellidae that I've encountered over the years. Many were identified by Adam Slipinski via Flickr. Some are still not identified, so any assistance on identification will be appreciated!

All photos are of live subjects shot in the field, with the dorsal view selected where available. Click on individual photos for larger views and views from other angles. As specimens were not collected, identifications were done purely based on photographs and may not be 100% accurate.

This post will be updated regularly, please let me know if you spot any mistakes.

View my complete Flickr photo set: Coccinellidae - Ladybirds.

Family: Coccinellidae Latreille, 1807

Subfamily: Coccinellinae Latreille, 1807

Tribe: Coccidulini Mulsant, 1846

Ladybird (Scymnus sp.) preying on an aphid - DSC_3888 Singapore: cf. Scymnus sp.

Tribe: Coccinellini Latreille, 1807

Ladybird beetle (Coccinellidae) - DSC_9960 Belize: Azya sp. Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_5806 Singapore: Coelophora cf. inaequalis (Fabricius, 1775)
Ladybird (Heteroneda reticulata) - DSC_5268 Singapore: Heteroneda reticulata Fabricius, 1801 Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_7579 Singapore: Illeis koebelei Timberlake 1943

Subfamily: Epilachninae Mulsant, 1846

Tribe: Epilachnini Mulsant, 1846

Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_3010 Singapore: Epilachna sp. Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_4860 Singapore: Epilachna sp.
Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_0831 Singapore: Epilachna sp. Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_1755 Singapore: Henosepilachna sp.
Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_5871 Singapore: Epilachnini? Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_9187 Singapore: Epilachnini?

Subfamily: Ortaliinae Mulsant, 1850

Tribe: Noviini Ganglbauer, 1899

Ladybird (Rodolia sp.) - DSC_4606 Singapore: Rodolia sp.

Tribe: Ortaliini Mulsant, 1850

Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_9078 Singapore: Amida sp.

Subfamily: Sticholotidinae Weise, 1901

Tribe: Sticholotidini Weise, 1901

Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_6374 Singapore: cf. Chilocorellus sp. Ladybirds (Sticholotis sp.) - DSC_1356 Singapore: Sticholotis sp.

Subfamily: Scymninae Mulsant, 1846

Micro ladybirds (Scymninae) - DSC_8621 Belize: Scymninae

Tribe: Scymnini Mulsant, 1846

Ladybird beetle (Scymnini) - DSC_7496 Singapore: Scymnini

Unidentified

Ladybird (Coccinellidae) - DSC_1134 Singapore: Unidentified fungus-beetle-mimic

Larvae

Ladybird larva (Coccinellidae) - DSC_6417 Singapore: Unidentified Ladybird larva (Coccinellidae) - DSC_7386 Singapore: Unidentified
Ladybird larva? - DSC_4350 Singapore: Unidentified  

Pupae

Ladybird pupa (Coccinellidae) - DSC_9972 Singapore: Unidentified Ladybird larava (Coccinellidae) - DSC_1816 Singapore: Unidentified
Ladybird nymph (Coccinellidae) - DSC_2542 Singapore: Heteroneda reticulata Fabricius, 1801 Ladybird larava (Coccinellidae) - DSC_1798 Singapore: Unidentified

Behavior

Ladybird laying eggs (Coccinellidae) - DSC_5804 Singapore: Coelophora cf. inaequalis laying eggs Ladybird (Scymnus sp.) preying on an aphid - DSC_3903 Singapore: cf. Scymnus sp. preying on an aphid
Ladybird (Rodolia sp.) - DSC_4592 Singapore: Rodolia sp. emergence Ladybirds mating (Illeis cf. koebelei) - DSC_1855 Singapore: Illeis koebelei mating


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