This species of the week will actually consist of multiple species. Today we are looking at some of the lady beetles you can find around Sydney, and each of their own unique ecology which will fascinate and amaze some of you. Most people know the saying that lady beetles are a gardeners best friend and in most cases this is true. The majority of lady beetles are aphid eaters (which helps rid your plants of these sap sucking parasites), however this is not always the case. In fact some of the lady beetles species can be a gardeners worst enemy. For example, the 28 spotted lady beetle (Epilachna vigintioctopunctata) is a vegetation eater, where both larvae and adult will strip plant leaves. Luckily identifying one from the other is not as hard as you might think. You literally count the spots, look at the size and observe the patterns. The 28 spotted lady beetle is a relatively large lady beetle, orange in colour and roughly has 28 spots (as the name implies). This is an example of a lady beetle gardeners would prefer to keep out.
Now we will look at the ladybugs that gardeners would love seeing in their backyard. There are a numerous amount of aphid eating lady beetles. The most common species found in Sydney are: the transverse lady beetle (Coccinella transversalis) and the variable lady beetle (Coelophora inaequalis). The transverse lady beetle can be identified by its ‘V’ shaped markings spread transversely across each elytra (hardern wing case). The variable lady beetle is as the name implies, very variable. They usually have 4 dots on each elytra but this can very in a range of ways (the dots may join up, they may spread apart widely etc.). Regardless of their variability, they are easy to distinguish from other lady beetle as they ALWAYS have a black outline around the rim of their elytra (Observe the fine black line around the wings in the picture). Both these species go with the saying and are a gardeners best friend. These species of lady beetle are of medium relative size and the larvae of both are predatory on aphids as well as the adults.
There are examples of the two main types of lady beetles, however, there is one more to add. The gardeners and farmers have another good friend in the mix. The fungus eating lady beetle. This group of lady beetles eat parasitic fungi that infect plants. In Australia, this group is only represented by two species. There is one that is quite commonly found in Sydney, simply known as the fungus eating lady beetle (Illeus galbula). This lady beetle species is yellow, is quite small for a ladybug and had horizontal black stripes. They also have a noticeably rimmed shell casing (as if you turned a soup bowl upside-down). If a gardener had these in his backyard he would be ecstatic.
Keep you eyes out for these interesting little beetles. Its highly likely that you have one (or possibly two) of these species in the backyard. Comment below if you have seen one. Thank you for reading