Ladybugs are well-loved and one of the few insects that people like to have around. You may think that you can tell how old a ladybug is by counting its spots. But just how long do ladybugs live?
Most ladybugs live for around 1-2 years. In the right conditions, they can survive longer, which is why some can survive to the age of 2. Generally, they need the right diet, environment, and general health.
Ladybugs can be lovely to have around. Plus they are extremely beneficial to your yard by keeping away harmful bugs. Learning the life cycle of the ladybug may help you to understand how long they live and what factors affect this.
This guide will take you through everything you want to know about the ladybug’s lifespan.
Let’s get started.
How long do ladybugs live?
It’s a common myth that you can count ladybugs’ spots and tell their age.
Although that would be a great way to easily tell how old a ladybug live, unfortunately, it’s not true. The most common ladybug is the 7 spotted species, which would mean the ladybug was 7 years old. It would be great if ladybugs did live this long, but unfortunately, they don’t.
Ladybugs are small insects and statistically have a life expectancy of around one year but can survive up to two. So that means that some can live twice as long as others. The reason for this is that their lifespan will depend on conditions they experience in life. This includes food availability, climate, and predators.
Ladybug life cycle stages
Each stage of the ladybug’s life cycle can present different challenges to their survival. Let’s look at each stage of the ladybug life cycle.
Female ladybugs lay a clutch of around 20 eggs on a plant or the underside of a leaf. Once the eggs are laid the females don’t return to protect them. That means the eggs are vulnerable to predators from the moment they are laid. Laying the eggs on the underside of plants keeps them hidden from plain sight.
The adults help to ensure the survival of larvae by laying them on a good food source. This means that any larvae have access to food as soon as they hatch.
Unhatched eggs can even be at risk of being eaten by their siblings if food supplies are low when they emerge.
Once the temperature is right the ladybug eggs hatch around 3-10 days after being laid. The larvae emerge from the eggs as a long bug with a spiky shell.
These larvae need to grow quickly and this means eating a lot of insects to get to the next life cycle stage. This is where they start to attack the nearby aphids on the host plant.
The adult female or males do not return to care for their offspring. This makes them much more vulnerable to predators but they are able to move from danger.
Ladybug larvae will grow and molt for around 3-4 weeks before they are large enough to get to the next stage.
Once the larva is large enough it will attach to a leaf to enter the pupal stage. This is the process of turning into their adult form.
As the ladybug undergoes lots of physical changes, it stays completely still in the same spot. This makes them vulnerable to predators again as they can’t move to protect themselves.
This stage of the ladybug’s life takes around 1-2 weeks.
Once the adult ladybugs emerge, they remain vulnerable initially. This is because their shells are soft and take time to harden. This process is obvious as newly hatched adult ladybugs are pale in color, which darkens over time.
This whole process depends on the availability of sunlight and temperature.
The adult stage offers the ladybug the most protection from predators. This is because of their shell and ability to fly, giving them physical protection.
Adult ladybugs will then feed steadily for a month before entering a dormant state for around 6-7 months over autumn and winter.
How do ladybugs die?
There are conditions in a ladybugs’ life that will impact their ability to survive. Let’s look at what factors will cause a ladybug to die.
1. Food availablity
Ladybugs are busy little bugs and need a steady food supply to survive.
A ladybug’s diet is mostly made up of insects, but they do have other sources of energy.
The problem with a diet high in insects means that supplies quickly drop off once the insects become dormant in the colder months.
To survive those months’ ladybugs also need to go into a state of dormancy to survive.
Even in the warmer months, food supplies can be low. This means that ladybugs may need to rely on other food sources such as nectar or pollen if their usual insect supply is nowhere to be found.
Ladybugs have been known to eat the eggs of their own species to survive. Without a continuous food supply, immature ladybugs can’t progress to the next phase of their life cycle. This then impacts the number of ladybugs that reach adulthood.
Ladybugs are insects and at the lower end of the food chain for larger animals. Predators are one of the biggest threats to the ladybugs’ survival in the wild.
Common predators of ladybugs include:
Most ladybugs caught by predators will be at the egg, larvae, or pupae stage of the life cycle. That’s because they are unable to fly at this stage. The eggs and pupae are immobile and the larvae can move but are immature and inexperienced with predators.
Adult ladybugs rely on their ability to fly to escape a lot of situations where they can be eaten. They also use their colorings as a defense to ward off potential predators. The red coloring and black spots give the impression they may be poisonous to eat.
Predators may have had a bad experience eating a bug with similar coloring that has made them sick, so they’ll want to avoid it again.
3. Disease and parasites
The general health of a ladybug will have a big impact on how long they live. Disease and parasites are the biggest threat to their health that can lead to illness or death.
Common diseases and parasites that affect ladybugs are:
- Dinocampus Coccinellae paralysis virus (DcPV)
Ladybugs are not known to carry any diseases that will pass on to humans.
If a ladybug catches any disease or is infected by a parasite, they are effectively dead. That’s because most of these are parasites that attack the ladybugs and take over their body as a host. This means the ladybug is still living but is being controlled by the invading parasite.
As insects, ladybugs are extremely susceptible to life-threatening injury. An injured ladybug is likely to be unable to flee predators or to forage for food.
Human interference plays a large role in the injury of ladybugs. The use of insecticide is a big problem for ladybugs. Once ingested ladybugs will quickly become poisoned by insecticides.
Often gardeners use pesticides to get rid of aphids on their plants. Once the ladybugs come along to eat the aphids, they come into contact with the fatal chemicals used to kill the pest insects.
Another common cause of injury to ladybugs is the use of insect traps such as sticky tapes or glues. Ladybugs can easily become entangled in these traps and succumb to injuries from trying to escape. The alternative is they can’t escape and slowly starve to death.
Other insects can injure ladybugs as they try to escape any conflict. Ants will attack ladybugs if they interfere with aphids that ants are herding.
If a ladybug sustains a broken wing, it’s unlikely to survive long. This often happens as the ladybug ages and its body becomes more and more brittle.
Ladybugs are insects which means that they go into a period of diapause over winter. This is a state of dormancy that helps them to survive cold temperatures and low food supplies in winter.
Cold weather doesn’t normally kill ladybugs as they simply go into a state of diapause.
Yet a sudden cold spell at any time of the year may leave them vulnerable to predators. If the ladybugs aren’t well hidden during diapause, predators are likely to eat them.
Humidity is another factor for ladybug survival. Ladybugs like a humid environment and conditions which are too dry can result in them becoming dehydrated and signal poor food supply. Around 60% humidity is ideal for ladybugs, but they certainly survive in a climate much less than this. That’s why Ladybugs do best living in areas with a temperate climate.
How long do ladybugs live indoors?
Ladybugs can be kept as pets and live indoors. A ladybug that lives indoors will have a lifespan of 1-2 years just like in the wild.
That’s because this is the natural age for a ladybug to live. The chances of them living nearer to 2 years old is much higher when they live indoors.
When kept as pets the ladybugs are better protected. They have access to a regular food supply and also protection from predators and parasites.
Most ladybugs will live for around 1-2 years, yet most will die within their first year.
The longevity of a ladybug will depend on several life conditions. This includes their exposure to predators, food availability, and their general environment. All these will affect their survival rates.
Ladybugs are small insects and can be affected heavily by animals higher up the food chain. Human activity can also have a large impact on ladybug lifespan.
Despite this ladybugs are very adaptable insects and they can multiply rapidly to ensure the survival of the species.