Ladybirds, every child’s favourite bug

By Amelia Reid July 31, 2017
Reading Time: 4 Minutes Print this page
Here is everything you need to know about Australia’s native ladybirds.

The richly varied patterns and colours of ladybirds are truly captivating, but it’s their voracious appetites that underscore their popularity with gardeners and farmers.

Australia hosts more than 500 ladybird species, most of which are predators of aphids and scales — insect pests that feed on plant sap and cause serious damage to gardens and crops when they occur in large numbers.

In 1888, the Australian native vedalia ladybird became the world’s first biocontrol agent when it was exported to California to rid citrus orchards of cottony-cushion scale. The mealybug ladybird followed in 1891 and successfully controlled California’s citrus mealy bug.

Today ladybirds such as the transverse, maculate and minute two-spotted species control aphid populations, and thus increase yields in the Australian cotton industry, one of our highest rural export earners. Ladybirds are rarely preyed upon: they taste terrible. They further repel predators by emitting a noxious liquid from their leg joints when threatened. 

Spotted potato ladybird (Henasepilachna vigintiactopunctata)

This herbivorous ladybird is a pest on crops such as potato, pumpkin and tomato. Its elytra (forewings) have black spots – 28 in total -and are covered in dense short hairs.

Found: All States and territories except SA, Victoria and Tasmania

Size: 7 mm

Food: Flowers and leaves of tomato, pumpkin, potato, cabbage and bean plants

Spotted potato ladybird illustration
Spotted potato ladybird (Henasepilachna vigintiactopunctata). Image credit: Ego Guiotto

Mealybug ladybird (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri)

Mealybug ladybird larvae and adults feed on the eggs and nymphs of common insect pests such as mealy bugs. Larvae are covered by whitish waxy secretions and resemble mealy bugs, but are about twice the size of the adult female citrus mealy bug.

Found: All States and territories except Tasmania

Size: 3-4 mm

Food: Mealy bugs

Mealybug ladybird illustration
Mealybug ladybird (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri). Image credit: Ego Guiotto

Red chilocorus or armoured scale predator (Chilocorus circumdatus)

Used as biocontrol agent on orchard crops. Adult females lay cylindrical eggs 1 mm beneath the cover of scale insects. Larvae are voracious feeders.

Found: NSW and Queensland; originally from India

Size: 4-5 mm

Food: Scale insects including white louse scale, oleander scale, oriental scale and red scale

Red chilocorus or armoured scale predator ladybird illustration
Red chilocorus or armoured scale predator (Chilocorus circumdatus). Image credit: Ego Guiotto

Spotted amber ladybird (Hippodamia variegate)

Previously believed to be restricted to Europe, Russia and China but now widely distributed in Africa, North America and elsewhere. Discovered in the Lockyer Valley, Queensland, in November 2000. Eats up to 50 aphids a day.

Found: All States and territories

Size: 4 mm

Food: Aphids

Spotted amber ladybird illustration
Spotted amber ladybird (Hippodamia variegate). Image credit: Ego Guiotto

Vedalia ladybird (Podolia cardinalis)

The first biocontrol agent ever used, the vedalia was shipped to the USA in 1888 to control cottony-cushion scale insects in California citrus orchards.

Found: All States and territories except NT and Victoria

Size: 3-4 mm

Food: A few species of the genus lcerya

Vedalia ladybird illustration
Vedalia ladybird (Podolia cardinalis). Image credit: Ego Guiotto

Transverse ladybird (Coccinella transversalis)

This is one of the most commonly encountered ladybirds in the gardens and parks of Australian cities.

Found: All States and territories in urban areas, forest, heath and woodland

Size: 4-6 mm

Food: Aphids

Australoneda burgeoisi

Little is known of the biology of A. burgeoisi, Australia’s largest ladybird.

Found: Queensland and northern NSW

Size: 8-11mm

Food: Probably feeds on aphids

An illustration of the Traverse ladybird and the Australoneda burgeoisi.
Traverse ladybird (Coccinella transversalis) and Australoneda burgeoisi. Image credit: Ego Guiotto

Fungus-eating ladybird (Illeis galbula)

Larvae are creamy white with lines of black dots on their backs and grow up to 8-10 mm.

Found: All States and territories except WA and Tasmania

Size: 3-5 mm

Food: Black mould found on leaves of various plants

Fungus-eating ladybird illustration
Fungus-eating ladybird (Illeis galbula). Image credit: Ego Guiotto