Ladybird, temperate worldwide, 8 mm (0.20 in) long The ladybirds are types of beetle. A ladybird's red or yellow body and black spots are a warning to a hungry bird that it tastes very bad, and so deter it from eating it. If the ladybird senses danger from an insect predator, it reacts by oozing a smelly yellow substance from its leg-joints, which usually drives an attacker away. Many kinds of ladybird are very useful to gardeners and farmers, because they feed on pests, such as aphids, mites and caterpillars, that do a lot of damage to crops and plants. However, some species of ladybird are herbivorous and are serious crop pests themselves. They feed voraciously on potato and squashes, but also on maize, beans and spinach.
For some kinds of ladybird, aphids, members of the bug family, are their favourite food. They will eat around 50 aphids each day. However, aphids are also valued by ants, who herd them together and "milk" them for the sticky sweet liquid, called honeydew, that they produce. For this reason, the ants will fiercely defend the aphids from any predators—including ladybirds—who attempt to eat them. Ladybirds lay their eggs on plants where aphids are found, so that when their larvae hatch out, they will have a good food supply.
There are 3500 species of ladybird.
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