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Living Organism Care Guide: Lady Beetle Larvae

Living Care Information

Coleomegilla maculata
Commonly known as lady beetle, ladybug,
ladybird, spotted lady beetle, 12-spotted lady beetle

Quick Start Information

  • Carolina sells two species of lady beetles. This care guide is for Coleomegilla maculata, which are shipped as larvae. Visit our care guide for Hippodamia convergens, which are shipped as adults.

  • Open the shipping box and check that all items are undamaged.

  • Keep the lady beetle larvae at room temperature and out of direct sunlight while you prepare their culture cup.

About the Organism

  • C. maculata is one of nearly 5,000 species of ladybugs in the world.
  • In the wild, ladybugs feed on a combination of plant pollen and insect eggs and larvae.
  • Because they feed on crop pests, such as aphids, many species of lady beetles, including C. maculata, are used as beneficial insects in greenhouses and commercial agriculture fields.
  • C. maculata is native to the eastern and midwestern United States.
  • Ladybugs undergo complete metamorphosis and are a great addition to life cycle investigations.
  • Domain: Eukarya
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Coleoptera
  • Family: Coccinellidae
  • Genus: Coleomegilla
  • Species: maculata

Preparation

Lady beetle larvae are shipped in a culture cup with climbing substrate and food. A watering cup assembly is included in each shipment and needs to be assembled and added to the culture cup.

Your shipment includes two sticky pads—one for the bottom of the watering cup and one for the bottom of the culture cup. Open the culture cup, taking care to move the food and climbing substrate out of the way, and affix one of the sticky pads to the bottom of the culture cup. Affix the other sticky pad to the bottom of the watering cup.

To assemble the watering cup, fill the 1/2-oz cup with water. Push the wick about halfway through the hole in the matching lid, then snap the lid onto the cup. Place the watering cup onto the bottom of the culture cup on top of the sticky pad affixed to the bottom of the culture cup.

A photo of an assembled system appears below:

Assembled culture cup

Assembled culture cup

You may find it easier to remove the climbing substrate while you place the watering cup. Place the climbing substrate onto a paper towel temporarily while you arrange the watering cup into place. Avoid touching the larvae directly; this could injure them. You may very gently brush any larvae that escape while you are adding the watering cup back into the culture cup with a soft brush or the side of your fingernail.

Housing

Keep the lady beetle larvae at room temperature and out of direct sunlight. Only open the lid when you need to add water to the watering cup. Take care not to squish larvae in the lid when you close it. Do not shake the cup or jostle it. If the watering cup spills, it will be difficult to maintain your lady beetle habitat without mold accumulating.

Feeding

The culture cup contains all the food the larvae require to reach the pupa stage. Check the larvae daily and refill the water cup if it becomes empty.

If a small amount of food molds in the culture cup, it will not harm the larvae if food that has not molded is available. Food that has molded should be removed.

To feed the adults, soak a raisin in water for a few minutes and then cut it in half before adding it to the cup. Replace the raisin if it develops mold and add more water to the watering cup if necessary. The adults can also eat any leftover larvae food.

Maintaining and culturing

The larvae will begin to pupate in 1 to 2 weeks. Try not to disturb the cup while they are changing into pupae. After all the larvae have become pupae, wait until the first adults emerge before feeding them again.

The lady beetles will spend about 4 days as pupae, or a bit longer at cooler temperatures. The adults are yellow when they first emerge, then pink, and continue to get darker as they age.

We recommend that you keep the adult lady beetles for only a few days, and then release them in a greenhouse. If you want to keep them longer, you can either leave them in the culture cup or transfer them to a larger container. The lady beetles will survive for a week or 2 in captivity, but most likely will not lay eggs without an additional protein source.

Disposal

We strongly recommend giving any unwanted organisms to another individual if you do not wish to keep them. We do not advocate the release of organisms into the environment. Please contact your local (state) Department of Agriculture for any restrictions on release of organisms. As a last resort, place unwanted organisms in a sealable container and freeze for 48 hours. Dispose of the organisms in the regular solid waste.

Biosafety

Wash your hands with soap and water after handling any living organism, changing habitat bedding, or handling habitat components.

Video

There are no suggested videos for this organism.

FAQs

What kind of lady beetles are these larvae? Are these the same as the lady beetles that are sold for pest control?

These lady beetles are Coleomegilla maculata, also called the pink-spotted ladybug. They are native to the United States. The lady beetles that are sold as adults for pest control are usually a different species that congregate in large numbers and are therefore easier to collect. However, both are beneficial insects that will eat pests.

What do lady beetles eat?

Lady beetles are carnivores at all stages of their life, and they eat a variety of insects and arthropods including aphids, mites, and insect eggs. The pink-spotted ladybug isn’t picky; it will also supplement its diet with nectar and pollen when other food is scarce.

Is one of my larvae trying to eat one of the pupae?

It could be. Lady beetles have a dark side: they’re carnivores, and they’ll eat whatever they can if the opportunity arises. The pink-spotted ladybug only does this rarely, and we reduce the chances of cannibalism by only shipping larvae together that are all the same age. You can also help by making sure they always have other food available.

What are the crumpled black things in the cup?

Those are shed exoskeletons. Lady beetle larvae shed their skin 3 times before they pupate.

What is the lady beetle’s life cycle?

Lady beetles spend about 4 days as eggs, 12 to 14 days as larvae, 4 days as pupae, then emerge as adults. They develop more slowly at cooler temperatures and more quickly when it’s warmer. In the wild, the adults begin to lay eggs in about a week and can live for several months.

Need help?

We want you to have a good experience. Orders and replacements: 800.334.5551, then select Customer Service. Technical support and questions: caresheets@carolina.com

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