What types of ladybugs live in California?
It is not surprising that the ladybug is one of the most beloved insects in the world!
First, ladybugs are small, beautiful creatures that feature vibrant red or yellow colors. I also think most people appreciate the fact that they don’t bite or sting humans. 🙂
But the main reason that ladybugs are so well-loved by backyard gardeners and farmers is because of their voracious appetite for pests! Ladybugs are known to eat a wide variety of problem bugs, such as aphids, chinch bugs, asparagus beetle larvae, alfalfa weevils, bean thrips, grape rootworm, Colorado potato beetles larvae, spider mites, whiteflies, and mealybugs.
Today, you will learn about the 11 ladybug species that live in California.
*Make sure you make it to the end of the list to see the last two insects. They are not actually “ladybugs,” but are look very similar and confuse a lot of people!*
#1. Cardinal Ladybird
- Novius cardinalis-formerly known as Rodolia cardinalis
- The upperside is covered in short hairs.
- Red wings with black spots, black legs, brown feet, and brown antennae.
- Also known as the Vedalia beetle, Vedalia Lady Beetle.
The Cardinal Ladybird can be found all over California.
Cardinal Ladybird Range Map
This ladybug species is originally native to Australia and was brought here for biological pest control. The Cardinal Ladybird has now spread to every continent except Antarctica.
Like most ladybugs, Cardinal Ladybirds regularly feed on aphids and small mites. However, their primary food source is the Cottony Cushion Scale which is a pest that eats citrus and native trees.
It may surprise you that these tiny and sweet ladybugs are cannibals and will eat their own kind! This is because they do not like to go hungry. Females will even lay more unfertilized eggs so their young will have enough to eat.
#2. Convergent Lady Beetle
- Hippodamia convergens
- Oval, dark orange body with as many as 13 black spots that vary in size.
- The head is black with two white spots.
This species is a common native ladybug in California.
Convergent Lady Beetles live in a wide variety of habitats. Look for this pretty species in your yard or garden. Unfortunately, in certain areas, they are being outcompeted and replaced by the invasive Asian Ladybeetle.
Convergent Lady Beetle Range Map
Both adults and larvae feed on aphids, but adults will also eat whiteflies, other insects, pollen, and other plant materials.
During colder weather, Convergent Lady Beetles form large groups called aggregations. They do this to mate and stay warm during hibernation!
When these ladybugs are in their large groups, they are collected and then sold in garden centers as a source of pest control. However, once the person purchases and releases them, they usually fly away. Hopefully, they put a buyer beware notice on the container! : )
#3. Fourteen-Spotted Ladybird Beetle
- Propylea quatuordecimpunctata
- Comes in over 100 varieties of colors and pattern variations. For example, the primary exoskeleton color can be cream to yellow to orange, but interestingly not red.
- As the name suggests, there are fourteen black rectangular spots on their back, which may be fused together at the midline.
- Antennae and legs are yellowish-brown.
- Also known as P-14.
This species was brought to North America to help control Russian Wheat Aphids. The Fourteen-spotted Ladybird Beetle is now widespread in California and continues to spread.
Fourteen-Spotted Ladybird Beetle Range Map
This ladybug lives in several different habitats, including mixed forests, meadows, or fields. Look for this species at ground level in gardens and parks. Common sites include leaf litter, moss, compost piles, and plants.
The Fourteen-spotted Ladybird Beetle is insectivorous and feeds on aphids, whiteflies, scale insects, larvae, and eggs of some beetles and butterflies.
Like most ladybugs, these tiny insects are FAST and can fly a LONG way. They can fly 37 mph and travel up to 70 miles without taking a break.
#4. Seven-Spotted Ladybug
- Coccinella septempunctata
- Red body with six black spots and one big black mark on the middle of wings (hence their name).
- The head is black with two white dots.
- Also known as Seven-spotted Ladybird and C-7.
When you think of ladybugs, you probably picture something similar to the Seven-spotted Ladybug!
You will find this ladybug in many different habitats, including meadows, fields, gardens, and forests.
Seven-Spotted Ladybug Range Map
Almost everyone loves the Seven-spotted Ladybug because of the MASSIVE amounts of aphids they eat. This makes them very useful in controlling the pest population of aphids in grasslands and farms.
Surprisingly, this ladybug species is NOT native to California.
They were introduced here from Europe as a biological control against aphids. Interestingly, while they are thriving in North America, Seven-spotted Ladybugs are declining in their native ranges in Europe.
Like other ladybugs, this species can secrete fluid from the joints in their legs. EWW! This gives them a foul taste for potential predators. If threatened, the ladybug will play dead or secrete this substance to protect itself.
Check out this video of the Seven-spotted Ladybug as it is an eating machine!
#5. Pink-Spotted Lady Beetle
- Coleomegilla maculata
- Most are pink, but some may be bright orange or red. Each wing contains six black marks. Oblong and flat.
- Also known as the Spotted Lady Beetle and the Twelve-spotted Lady Beetle.
- Larvae look like black and yellow mini alligators and have three pairs of legs.
The Pink-spotted Lady Beetle lives wherever it can find its favorite prey, which is aphids. This includes crops where aphids are found, such as wheat, sweet corn, alfalfa, soybeans, peas, beans, cotton, potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, and apples.
Pink-Spotted Lady Beetle
Pink-spotted Lady Beetle also eats mites, insect eggs or larvae, nectar, water, and pollen. Pollen makes up 50% of their food intake.
This ladybug is a predator of the eggs of several moths that eat corn crops. The Pink-spotted Lady Beetle can eat around 60 eggs per day and plays a massive part in reducing the populations of these nasty pests.
Pink-spotted Lady Beetles help growers avoid spraying harmful chemicals on their crops, which is good for all of us. Farmers even purchase these ladybugs commercially for this purpose.
#6. Two-Spotted Ladybug
- Adalia bipunctata
- Red with one spot on each wing.
- The head is black with two white spots, which look like their eyes.
- Also known as Two-spot Ladybird and Two-spotted Lady Beetle.
This species is found in many different habitats but has a clear preference for trees and shrubs.
The Two-spotted Ladybug feeds on aphids and other small insects. But this ladybug eats gall-forming aphids, which actually have soldiers that fight the ladybug back to protect its colony. That would stink to have your food fight back!
Two-Spotted Ladybug Range Map
This ladybug is commonly used as a biological agent to control pests. But their population has declined in many states, and scientists are not completely sure why.
One reason might be because 80%-90% of the Two-spotted Ladybugs offspring are female. Interestingly, this discrepancy is caused by bacteria that are found only in females. The bacteria kills the male embryos in the recently laid eggs.
#7. Twenty-Spotted Lady Beetle
- Psyllobora vigintimaculata
- Creamy white or tan with black spots on wings and head.
- Legs are light orange.
- Also known as the Wee-Tiny Ladybug.
This species is one of the smallest ladybugs in California.
You can find the Twenty-spotted Ladybug on plants that are covered in mildew. They like to eat the mildew off the plants. Interestingly, they enjoy eating fungus rather than aphids, unlike most other ladybug species.
Twenty-Spotted Lady Beetle Range Map
Many times in spring, they will be on skunk cabbage plants or in shrubbery vegetation.
Over winter, this ladybug gets together with others and forms small groups (aggregations) to hibernate under leaf litter.
#8. Thirteen-Spot Lady Beetle
- Hippodamia tredecimpunctata
- Larger-sized ladybug. The head is white and black.
- It has an elongated oval-shaped, reddish-orange body with 13 black spots that may be fused.
This ladybug is found primarily in wet meadows and marshes, lakeshores, and flood plains in California.
The Thirteen-spot Lady Beetle is typically found on grass or small shrubs.
Thirteen-Spot Lady Beetle Range Map
This ladybug prefers to eat aphids off dry, rough vegetation. However, they also feed on reeds, rotten hay, and under peeled-off bark.
Since they are a northern species, they are only active from May through September.
#9. Three-Banded Lady Beetle
- Coccinella trifasciata
- Round, red to orange with black bars on wings.
- The head is black with two white spots along the front edge of the neck.
This species is one of the rarest ladybugs in California.
It is likely that Three-banded Ladybugs are outcompeted for habitat and food by non-native ladybugs. In addition, pesticide use and habitat loss put additional pressure on their population.
Three-Banded Lady Beetle Range Map
This species is typically found in gardens, crop fields, meadows, and woodlands.
Like most ladybugs in California, the Three-banded Ladybug prefers to eat aphids, mites, caterpillars, insect eggs, and soft-bodied insects.
However, they also will feed on nectar and pollen. This ladybug has a bit of a sweet tooth!
Insects that Look Like Ladybugs but are NOT!
#10. Asian Lady Beetle
- Harmonia axyridis
- They are typically orange or red with black spots. But these beetles can be VERY challenging to identify because of their variations in color, spot size, and spot count.
- Also known as the Multicoloured Asian Ladybug, Harlequin Ladybird, and Japanese Ladybug.
The Asian Lady Beetle is the most common and widespread look-alike ladybug in California.
Asian Lady Beetle Range Map
The Asian Lady Beetle is NOT a true ladybug. It is similar in the way it looks but not in the way it acts. It is native to eastern Asia and was brought over to help control aphids like other ladybugs.
Once introduced, this species spread quickly through California. Many people call it the “Halloween Beetle”, as it often invades homes during October to overwinter. I know we get MANY Asian Lady Beetles coming into our house each year when the weather turns colder!
In fact, this species is considered one of the world’s most invasive insects. Their bodily fluids have an unpleasant odor and can stain fabric, so try not to crush this beetle if you find it inside!
The easiest way to identify this beetle is the black markings on its head look like the letter “W” or “M.”
Check out this video of how big of a problem the Asian Lady Beetle can be before winter.
#11. Ornate Checkered Beetle
- Trichodes ornatus
- Black and red checkered pattern on the body.
- Also known as the Clerid Beetle.
This ladybug look-alike is widespread throughout California.
Ornate Checkered Beetle Range Map
Interestingly, Ornate Checkered Beetle larvae are found in bees’ nests where they are parasitic predators.
Here’s how it works:
First, the females give birth to their own young on a flower’s surface. Then the newborn larva hitches a ride on a bee’s leg to its nest. Once there, it feeds on the bees’ larvae and pollen until they mature and leave.
Once the Ornate Checkered Beetles are adults, you will find this species feeding on milkweed, yarrow, or other plants with yellow coloration.
Do you need additional help identifying ladybugs in California?
Try this field guide!
Which of these ladybugs have you seen in California?
Leave a comment below!