For the second year in a row, we have hiked into an area of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area to discover ladybugs. The year before we moved, the Roots & Shoots group that we now belong had hiked in for the first time. In this short, three year span, our group leader has observed a significant decline in the number of ladybugs present. The decline has been so significant, even the kids could recognize a change from 2012 to 2013.
Most coccienellids overwinter as adults, aggregating on the south sides of large objects such as trees or houses during the winter months, dispersing in response to increasing day length in the spring. In 2012, we observed them covering the perimeter of a pine tree and all amongst the leaf and pine needle litter on the forest floor. Once we noticed them, it was difficult not to step on them. I blogged about our discovery here, Ladybugs Ladybugs Ladybugs, and also reported our spotting to Project Noah – I encourage you to follow the links – the pictures give some idea as to how many there were present.
From the Lost Ladybug Project website: “Across North America ladybug species distribution is changing. Over the past twenty years several native ladybugs that were once very common have become extremely rare. During this same time ladybugs from other places have greatly increased both their numbers and range. Some ladybugs are simply found in new places. This is happening very quickly and we don’t know how, or why, or what impact it will have on ladybug diversity or the role that ladybugs play in keeping plant-feeding insect populations low.”
This year, we took part in the Lost Ladybug Project for the first time (we only recently learned of this citizen science opportunity). Our group leader reported our data and the species we observed was confirmed as Hippodamia convergens, a native species but not the elusive 9-spotted species that is of most concern. Commonly known as the convergent lady beetle, Hippodamia convergens is one of the most common lady beetles in North America and is found throughout the continent.
Adults are slightly elongated in shape and can range from 4-7 mm in length. They have a prominent black and white pattern behind the head, and black spots on red forewings. Beetles may have a full complement of 13 spots or they may have only a few. The white lines that converge behind the head are common to all individuals.