The secret life of a ladybug

Coccinella septempunctata, seven-spot ladybird, Praglia (Genova), Italy

There are predators that show a scary appearance and weapons that would intimidate even an entire army. Powerful claws,strong and chainsaw-like fangs, or even spines and dark mimetic colours. But it’s not always like that. There are also less punk-shaped predators, maybe with nice brilliant colours.
Ladybugs ( Coccinella septempunctata in this case) for instance, surely don’t have the typical predator look, but appearance often deceives. They’re life long hunters, since larvae to adults. They prey upon Aphids, the so called plant lices, tiny parasite insects which suck the sap of plants. The ladybugs know that and climb up to the colonies of these apparently defenceless insects to raid over them, with the pleasure of floriculturists. But very often aphids are not alone. They’re strongly defended by ants, which are rewarded by them with abundant glucose-rich secretions, a surplus derived by their sap-based diet. So hunting is no more a “promenade” for the ladybug, it eventually becomes a dangerous affair. Its shield-like body is very tough but both legs and belly are vulnerable to the ants. So raid-hunt is a good technique. Nonetheless, in the course of its life a single ladybug can eliminate hundreds of aphids. This is the reason why it’s considered one of the most useful insects by humans and its cultivations. Another one, the Harlequin ladybug (Harmonia axyridis) has been introduced by human in Europe as a pest control inside by cultivation, but it revealed a lethal predator that not only hunts aphyds, but even other local ladybugs and insects. This is a real big problem and actions are on the way in this years to eliminate this alien species from its new home.