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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Raising Ladybugs from Larvae

Today Hazel brought her ladybugs to school to share with her friends. We raised them from larvae and she was so excited to share them. The teachers were excited too since they just started a unit on bugs. Talk about perfect timing. I thought I would share them with you as well.


Last year Hazel and I raised butterflies. I thought it would be neat for her to see the cycle of life of a butterfly. I asked Hazel this year if she wanted to do butterflies again or try ladybugs. She decided on ladybugs, so we bought the ladybug house from Lakeshore Learning with our 20% off coupon and sent away for the larvae. Now ladybugs are even easier than the butterflies. The only important thing to do is to keep the sponge in the home moist. Besides that you sit back and watch. Hazel loves using the dropper to keep the moisture up, however as the larvae and ladybugs rose to the top, I took over the job to make sure we didn't have any escape.


After adding the moisture, we poured the tube into the cage and checked out the larvae. The tube had this white paper in it, and we just kept it in with the ladybugs since the larvae were climbing all over it. The small brown powdering stuff is their food. The tube arrived on March 27th.


We sat back and watched as they grew. The little spots of things became much bigger. These pictures are from April 14th. The larvae molt at least three times before going into the pupa stage.

We kept watching for the pupa stage. It was hard to see since they did not change much and really just stuck to the sides of the home. I also did not get any clear pictures because they were stuck to the sides of the plastic home. The clearest pictures of the larvae and ladybugs came from the magnifying glass on top and the sides cannot be seen well with it. Sorry!


Then this past weekend, we discovered we had ladybugs!! Of course we have also been reading books about ladybugs while watching them. We learned a few things like ladybugs have yellow blood. Some ladybugs have spots and some do not. They come in different colors. Red is the common color we all think of but they can be orange, yellow and even pink. 

Different Species Source
The resource books we have read are pictured below. They are Ladybugs by Ann Heinrichs, Ladybug by Emery Bernhard, Grub to Ladybug by Melvin and Gilda Berger, and Lucky Ladybugs by Mary Elizabeth Salzmann. The information about ladybugs mentioned in this post I read and learned from one of these books.


All of these books include a ladybug's life cycle. There are also many free resources on line to teach the life cycle. One I sent to Hazel's teacher is on Montessori Printshop. Everything Ladybug! has a good one as well.
HarAxy ontwikkeling
Ladybug Life Cycle Source: By Pudding4brains (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The life cycle is of course the ladybugs mate and the female lays yellow eggs on a leaf. The eggs hatch and larva comes out of each egg. The larvae change and molt at least three times. Then they go into pupa stage growing a hard shell on the outside. In a few weeks the adult ladybug breaks through the hard shell. 

Ladybugs also have a few defenses to deter predators. One is their taste. They also can release a bad smelling and tasting chemical. They also can play dead so the predator will leave them alone. 

Ladybugs are also called ladybirds or lady beetles in Europe. And although they have lady in their name there are male ladybugs and female ladybugs. Since ladybugs eat aphids (bugs that harm crops and orchards), many people consider the ladybug lucky and have throughout history. They have been used and are still used by farmers to save their crops. Many farmers found using chemical pesticides also killed ladybugs (and other helpful insects and some birds) and this did more harm than good, so they now order ladybugs to come eat the pests to their crops. In fact when orange groves in California were dying due to scale insects that showed up after the ladybugs had been killed by the insecticides, millions of ladybugs were sent from Australia to eat the scale insects and saved the oranges and trees. In the Middle Ages people were so thankful for ladybugs as well as the Virgin Mary, they were called Beetles of Our Blessed Lady. Once they were believed to have magical powers including finding a single girl a boyfriend. In early America it was considered good luck to find a ladybug in a house in the winter. Ladybugs or rather ladybirds even made it into Mother Goose Rhymes. 
Ladybird, ladybird fly away home. Your house is on fire and your children are gone.
 This was a rhyme farmers used when they burnt  the vines after the harvest. They wanted to send the beetles away from the fire so they could return the next year. It was first published around 1760.

Ladybugs are also popular characters in picture books. Some we have found and read or hope to read are:

  • The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle (June's author for Virtual Book Club for Kids)
  • Ladybug on the Move by Richard Fowler
  • Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis (There is a whole series)
  • What the Ladybug Heard by Julia Donaldson
  • Yoo-Hoo, Lady Bug! by Mem Fox (May's author for Virtual Book Club for Kids) (a fun search for the ladybug on each page)
  • Ladybug at Orchard Avenue by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
  • Lara Ladybug by Christine Florie
  • The Very Lazy Ladybug by Isabel Finn and Jack Tickle
So that is what we have been exploring with bugs this year. Hazel has informed me that next year she wants to go back to the butterflies and then alternate each year. She loves "hatching" bugs as she calls it.

More posts and crafts on ladybugs and bugs: