The light switch of spring has been thrown. One day it was cool, and the next it was warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt. There it has remained, warming the earth and inspiring an explosion of life.
A veritable smorgasbord of insects and arachnids has appeared. Flies buzz, wasps and bees flit about, beetles emerge, spiders spin and leap and dash, and where just a few weeks ago the days passed with scarcely a single small critter to enjoy, now it’s difficult to know which one to focus on.
But winter’s dearth always gives way to spring’s bounty, something that plants and insects demonstrate with great passion. And often one of the first things to appear in abundance is the lady beetle.
Standing on the patio the other evening, only a few moments before sunset, a small beetle rushed along the patio fence. I ran inside, grabbed the camera, then returned to snap a picture or two. By that time the little lady had scampered between the slats where it no doubt wanted to grab some rest for the night.
So I was mocked by this ashy gray lady beetle (a.k.a. ash gray lady beetle; Olla v-nigrum) who showed me nothing but buttocks. I stood patiently hoping the hideout was temporary, but alas the insect nodded off to sleep and stayed put, so a gray moon was all I had to show for the encounter.
Finding this seven-spotted ladybug (a.k.a. seven-spotted ladybird; Coccinella septempunctata) larva came as no surprise. These beetles start mating and multiplying the moment it’s warm enough outside.
(No, it’s not missing any legs. The one good photo I took happened to have one leg curled underneath the larva as it changed direction.)
And an adult seven-spotted ladybug (a.k.a. seven-spotted ladybird; Coccinella septempunctata) soaking up sunshine atop a dandelion. Days may be warm, but nights are still cool enough to require a recharge of heat each morning. Though that’s changing quickly as quite soon nights will be comfortable and days will be unbearably hot.
As these two multicolored Asian lady beetles (Harmonia axyridis) show, the season is never too early for making babies. If it’s warm enough to move about, it’s warm enough to mate and multiply.
This multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) landed on my shirt as I stood on the patio enjoying warm sunshine one afternoon. It’s unwise for anything small to enter the house since The Kids take seriously their duty to hunt down and dispatch invaders. So I plucked the little beetle from my shirt in order to place it on the patio fence.
Then, for the first time in my 40 years, a lady beetle bit me. The ungrateful invader apparently found the relocation disagreeable and decided to nibble on me as repayment for the move. The experience was interesting but not painful. The biggest shock was that it took four decades to experience it given how much time I spend in nature and how often I have run-ins with fauna.
Despite the transgression, I put the beetle on the fence with gentle care so it could go on with its day. Though I did scold it briefly and warn it that others might not be so forgiving.
Walking across the bridge over Dixon Branch, a spark of color on the concrete railing gave me a moment of pause. This convergent ladybird beetle (a.k.a. convergent lady beetle or convergent ladybug; Hippodamia convergens) faced into the rising sun to gather warmth.
The number of lady beetle species at White Rock Lake is high, but unfortunately a great many of the numerous examples are from introduced species. Finding endemics like the ashy gray or the convergent tends to be like finding a needle in a stack of needles. Nevertheless, they can be found if one looks carefully enough.