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Photos show the birth of beautiful ladybirds

This month, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust's Rachel Shaw, talks us through the transformation of ladybirds:

There are transformations going on all around us as insects take on new forms.

When I spotted a bright orange object on a leaf of my sage plant, it was only when I looked closely that I realised it was the pupa of a ladybird. An hour or so later, it had changed, becoming darker and harder.

Harlequin ladybird next to a pupa. Credit: Philip Precey.
Harlequin ladybird next to a pupa. Credit: Philip Precey.

Butterflies are well-known for undergoing metamorphosis.

They transform from a very hungry caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. But beetles, bees and flies also undergo this process.

Like the hungry caterpillars, ladybird larvae are voracious predators, devouring vast numbers of aphids.

This stage of their life is all about eating and growing as quickly as possible.

They look more like miniature lizards than adult ladybirds.

The larvae of many ladybird species are greyish-black with yellow or orange patches.

They have three pairs of legs at the front of an elongated body, no wings and tufts of bristles in rows along their backs.

Harlequin ladybird larva. Credit: Rachel Scopes.
Harlequin ladybird larva. Credit: Rachel Scopes.

As they grow, they must moult or shed their exoskeleton – the outer layer of their body.

Ladybird larvae do this four times. Until the final time when they attach themselves to a leaf or wall.

The larva then hunches over and splits its skin for a final time, leaving the pupa attached to the leaf.

A ladybird pupa. Credit: Rachel Shaw.
A ladybird pupa. Credit: Rachel Shaw.

From the outside, it looks like nothing is happening. But inside this hardened case something remarkable is going on.

The larva dissolves most of its cells into a kind of insect soup and reforms into its adult body.

This process can take a week. When the adult ladybird emerges, its pale in colour and its wing cases are soft.The characteristic colours can take a few days to develop.

Now the ladybirds have wings, they are able to leave the area where they were born.Not so much fly away from home as find a new home where they can mate and lay more ladybird eggs.

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