Michael E. N. Majerus
University of Cambridge
Ladybugs are one of the most familiar groups of insects.
These beetles have received attention in both pure and applied areas of biological research. In some senses they are typical insects, having regular life cycles comprising egg, larval, pupal, and adult stages. However, close scrutiny of the behavior and habits of ladybugs has revealed a variety of fascinating evolutionary and ecological features, including color pattern polymorphism, extreme promiscuity, cannibalism, sexually transmitted diseases, and biased sex ratios, some of which seem to be contrary to theoretical expectation. Here the basic biology of ladybugs and some of these conundrums are considered.
As a group, the ladybugs are the most popular of beetles. The bright colors of many species and their reputation of being beneficial, because many species eat plant pests, are at the root of this popularity. In many parts of the world ladybugs are named after religious figures and are revered, often being considered harbingers of good fortune. Indeed, the common English-language name for this family of beetles derives from the Virgin Mary. Ladybirds are "Our Lady's birds."
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