We all know what ladybugs (aka lady beetles) look like. Many of us gardener types also know that they are voracious predators of aphids – fascinating little sap-sucking pests of tender young plants and fruit trees.
This spring our Italian plum tree really caught the attention of aphids for the first time. At first I just noticed some curling leaves and began wiping the bright green aphids off the underside of the leaves. But I couldn’t keep up. The tree is 15′ tall and every young leaf was vulnerable. Eventually, sap was dripping from the upper leaves, covering the lower leaves and the back porch.
But the predators finally cued in and caught up. At first I noticed the bright yellow eggs on the underside of some leaves. Later, the little black-and-orange alligator larvae crawled on the leaves, on the trunk, on the ground. Finally, I noticed the strange orange-and-black pupa stuck to the leaves: larvae becoming adult ladybugs. Fascinating! I realized how if you scrunched up an alligator larvae you got something that looked halfway between the larvae and an adult ladybug.
Here are some photos on a plant near the aphid-infested hop vine:
For some great info on ladybugs – native and invasive – check out the Lost Ladybug Project