Gardening In Depth

What Do Ladybug Larvae Look Like?

What Do Ladybug Larvae Look Like? thumbnail

Identifying & Understanding Various Insect Species Makes You a Better Organic Gardener or Farmer

First a painful personal lesson…

Many years ago when we were new gardeners, we didn’t know very much about insects. One day, as we were standing under a willow tree in our backyard, we noticed dozens of small, spiny black and red insects crawling down the tree trunk’s bark.

Yikes! What to do? The insects looked dangerous. Surely, they were some sort of stinging critter that would do harm to us if allowed the opportunity. So, we smashed them with our gloved hands.

A little later when we were back inside, we did some googling. To our horror, we discovered that we’d just killed the larvae of some of the most beneficial predatory insects you can possibly have in your garden: ladybugs. Ugh.

Feeling ashamed and disgusted with ourselves, we decided to create our own “policy” to ensure we never made the same mistake again.

No Action Without Knowledge

We decided that before we ever intentionally killed another insect (or any other critter) in our garden, we’d have to go through the following checklist first:

  1. We had to know what species it was;
  2. We had to know what ecological function it served;
  3. It had to present either a danger to us or our animals, OR it had to present a danger to our plants that would not likely be kept in check by our predatory insects. Examples of pest insects that fall into this category: ticks (although our ducks eat them all now), Squash Vine Borers, and Japanese beetles).

If a pest insect meets all of the three criteria above, then we will eradicate it/them in the most “targeted” way possible, e.g. using an approach that does not harm non-target species. Depending on the pest insect we’re trying to control, the remedy might be catch crops, neem oil, bait traps, or removal by hand.

Learn, Grow, Repeat

One of the best benefits of being an organic gardener is that you get to become a backyard scientist: observing, studying, and perhaps even running small-scaled experiments. This can also be an enriching educational experience for everyone in your family—especially for children.


Learning biology and ecology from a book is great; seeing it work firsthand provides a profoundly engrossing experience, especially when you get to eat the lesson plan!

Resilience

With almost all of our pest insects, we usually take a very hands-off approach. Why? Because each year, the number and variety of beneficial insect, amphibian, reptile, and bird species on our property has grown exponentially. If we took away all the prey, the predators would have nothing to eat.

It’s amazing to watch our lizards, dragonflies, lacewings, praying mantises, kingbirds, etc. work their magic. As the biodiversity in the system increases, its resilience improves in lockstep—the same thing is true in the soil as well. This means we do less work and get more food production. All species benefit from this approach, not just us.

Almost all the common insecticides that you’ll find at lawn & garden centers might effectively kill the pest insect you’re going after, but they’ll also indiscriminately kill your beneficial insects as well (pollinators and predators). This means you end up causing more problems than the single problem you’re trying to solve, and you starting yourself running on the “chemical treadmill”.

What Do Ladybug Larvae Look Like?

OK, now that we’ve expounded on our painful learning experience and hopefully provided you with a philosophy and an approach you can use in your own garden, it’s time to show you what those terrifying, scary, little ladybug larvae (monsters!) look like. Here are a few photos from our garden:

ladybugs, ladybug larvae and ants farming aphids

What Do Ladybug Eggs Look Like?

Ladybug larvae don’t just magically appear. They come from eggs. So what do ladybug eggs look like? Here you go:

Lady bug eggs on the underside of a seedling at Tyrant Farms.

Lady bug eggs on the underside of a seedling at Tyrant Farms.

Where to Buy Ladybug Larvae

Need to jump start the ladybug population in your garden? Yes, you can actually buy ladybug larvae! Click here or click the link below. This is an Amazon affiliate link to a quality provider, but we wanted to let you know we’ll make a small percentage of profit if you purchase ladybugs using this link—which means we might earn a few pennies for writing this article. Woohoo!

Back to Your Garden…

Next time you’re in your garden and you see ladybug eggs or larvae, you can smile and know that you’ve got an army of friends coming to help you. The same is true for many other species that co-inhabit your garden with you.

Instead of treating symptoms with bad solutions like we did the first time we saw ladybug larvae, please learn to think holistically. As you continue to improve your whole system over time, you’ll be surprised by how few symptoms you have to “fix.”


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