Two years ago, I stumbled upon some unfamiliar ladybugs. There were Two-spotted (Adalia bipunctata), which turned out to be rather rare. It was the first Brooklyn report for the species. Last summer, the site was inaccessible to civilians because of construction. This weekend I took a look at the trees, as I usually do. They have been quite active with Multicolored Asian Ladybugs (Harmonia axyridis) for the last couple of weeks. But hello! Something different from the very round, very large (for a ladybug) H. axyridis, a nuisance species, if not worse, spread by gardeners and garden-suppliers. Indeed, many think the spread of these beetles has been the cause, or one of the causes, of the decline of the likes of A. bipunctata and other now rare native species. But the Two-spotted is still in town. While trying to get a live photo, the beetle flew down to my camera lens, so I snapped this pic with my phone.
From the Lost Lady Project, I’ve learned that A. bipunctata has been reported at four New York State sites. Like many native species, it has been declining in numbers for the last twenty years or more. The location here is tiny, just a few trees, and isolated from other bits of green. It shows the importance of having a variety of trees and plants in as many places as possible. But this location is much busier with humans than it used to be…
Only three other places in New York! This isn’t to say there aren’t more places, which haven’t been discovered because there aren’t as many people looking for lady beetles as, say, there are people enabling FIFA’s looting, and/or staring at their toenails, but it does suggest their specialness. Speaking of nails. The Two-spotted comes in a variety of color forms. This one, found at the same time, is particularly striking.
The Catalpa trees — both the Northern Catalpa (C. bignonioides) and the Southern (C. speciosa) are found in the park — are ladybug magnets. The large heart-shaped leaves are often sticky, perhaps from the excretions of aphids, a favorite ladybug food. Right now, the nymph stages of the lady beetles, these small but frightful looking creatures, are out and about. This is one of the Multicolored Asian Ladybeetle (Harmonia axyridis). Here’s a passel of them in their pupal stage, transforming into adults under a Catalpa leaf:Metamorphosis is so wonderfully strange (to this mammal, anyway): the nymphs, which are actually larger than the adult, will completely transform into the more familiar round red (and other colored) beetles, their bodies chemically broken down and reformed while they are inside the pupa.An earlier instar of the all too-common MAL? (This one is on a milkweed.) Ladybug nymphs typically have four instars, or stages, which they molt through as they grow.
Once emerged, the adult beetle will harden, darken, and get spotted. Here’s another adult on a Catalpa leaf so sticky it’s glistening:The pale things are aphids.
Aphids feasting on plant juices, a 14-spotted lady beetle (Propylea quatuordecimpunctata) and syrphid fly larva (h/t for the ID on this one, Lost Ladybug Project) feeding on aphids.
My “Year of the Ladybug” continues. Or, should I say, Year of the Aphids? Since it is the aphids, those little buggers, who have ushered in the ladies. This glossy creature is the Polished Lady Beetle, Cycloneda munda, a species new to me.Also known commonly as the Red Lady Beetle and the Immaculate — that is, spotless — Ladybug. There are three species of Cycloneda in North America, with C. munda being the one found here in the North East.
One of the larva stage C. mundas, no orisons here, with a crunchy aphid at the business end. Photographed yesterday, in a drizzly, foggy, damp, humid, clammy Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the polish on the adult beetle shone out like a lighthouse.
The rare Two-spotted lady beetles (Adalia bipunctata) I discovered in July are still active in Brooklyn Bridge Park. In fact:“Houston, we have coition.” Luckily, I didn’t learn about reproduction from Republicans, so I know that this kind of activity leads to:Lady beetle eggs. I assume Two-spotted, but don’t know for sure.A recently emerged adult, whose markings and coloring will soon develop.
And continuing on the theme of life cycles:Fall Webworms (Hyphantria cunea) have broken out, formed silken webs, and are skeletonizing their hosts inside the webs.This defoliator is sometimes confused with Gypsy Moths and Eastern Tent caterpillars, who also make communal silk nests in trees. The Fall Webworm can make a tree look fairly ghastly but isn’t very dangerous because it strikes in the fall, when the trees are at the end of their leaf cycle. Brooklyn Bridge Park tends to leave “pests” like this alone because they will attract other species, including predators. Indeed, the aphid infestation on the catalpas probably lured in the Two-spotted lady beetles. H. cunea, meanwhile, has been called a “parasitoid hotel” because it is parasitized by more than fifty species of wasps and flies.
When I poked my camera lens in for the close-ups, the caterpillars outside the nest started wagging in unison, a characteristic of the species. It’s the dance sensation sweeping the nation: the “Funky Caterpillar.”
One more species of lady beetle spotted in Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the catalpa trees, whose big leaves are sticky with aphid honeydew. This is the Two-Spotted lady beetle (Adalia bipunctata). There were several of them, so there must have been a recent pupation. This species is native to North American and Europe, making it the first native species of lady beetle I’ve seen here in Brooklyn.Note that the pronotum has a similar M/W mark as the Multi-colored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) (see some examples here), but these bipunctata are not as large or round as that more common and invasive species.
The beetle below was in the same tree. It turns out to be A. bipunctata as well, only in a dark variation, as this beetle is subject to melanic polymorphism. Lady beetles are sometimes tricky.The Two-Spotted lady beetle seems to be in decline in North America, its range narrowing. According to the Lost Ladybug Project at Cornell, to whom I submitted these pictures, “Adalia bipunctata in Brooklyn is very exciting!” This is the third report of the species in NY state and the first for the black variation. Woo-woo!
UPDATE: Returned this morning and got a better shot of the dark morph:Probably a different individual. Hard as the dickens to shoot these glossy critters! Saw another of the dark forms at a separate catalpa tree, two piers away.
And this, another of the typical Two-Spotted, surrounded by the spent casings, or exuviae of the pupas — although those could be from other lady beetle species, since there are at least three species on these trees now:
Checker Spot ladybug (Propylea quatuordecimpunctata) munching on an aphid wing. Laval-stage lady beetles are also great aphid-devourers. This is why a number of different species of lady bugs have been introduced into North America over the years: to attack the real destruction aphids can cause. The Checker Spots were one such introduction.The Multi-colored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) were another. Above and below are two examples of this species. These, and numerous other examples of the species, which is quite varied in color and spot number, were found, in both adult and pupal stages, almost exclusively on widely separated Catalpa trees in the park.
Variegated lady beetle (Hippodamia variegata), another introduced species, pictured above and below.Same species, different individual:Three species of lady beetles noted in Brooklyn Bridge Park on the same day, all originally introduced species. In fact, I’m hard pressed to find any native species of lady bugs locally, and I’m not the only one. For instance, New York State’s state insect, the 9-Spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella novemnotata), is extremely rare now — it was thought absent from the state until one was found last year on Long Island. Check out the Lost Lady Bug Project for more details.
What is the connection between the introduction and spreading of non-native to dwindling numbers of native species? Unknown. Habitat destruction — native insects have spent millions of years developing relationships with native plants — and poisons may be the reason, or some combination of all these things.
Pupating larva, I assume of the Seven-Spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata), adults of which who were all around Four Sparrow Marsh: A species introduced from Europe to eat aphids.
Another commercially available aphid eater is the Convergent Lady Beetle (Hippodamia convergens), which is exported out of California:Like the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, this is also a variable looking species, but it usually has 13 spots and is not nearly as round as the MALB. Found this one on the sidewalk in the Gowanus. Commercially available lady bugs tend to fly out of your garden when released ’cause they ain’t working on Maggie’s farm no more….
My first lady bug of the year. The Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) is also multi-spotted, or sometimes not spotted at all. It’s highly variable, with more than 100 (!) colorforms. The M-shape on the pronotum is usually a good marker of the species. Of course, that’s a W-shape if you look at it the other way. (That seems to make it the only beetle with my initials on it.) The species was introduced into the Southeast around thirty years ago; since then it has spread throughout much of North America.