The Incredible Aphid-Eating Machines

Just call them the "incredible aphid-eating machines."

That would be the lady beetles, commonly known as ladybugs (although they are not bugs; they're beetles belonging to the family Coccinellidae, and they're not all "ladies"--some are male!).

How many aphids can a lady beetle eat? Scientists figure around 50 a day. A single lady beetle can eat 5000 aphids during its lifetime, according to the University of Kentucky Extension Service.

That's why they're called beneficial insects!

And it's not just the adult lady beetles that dine on those plant-sucking aphids. So do the larvae.

The UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program describes lady beetles as "round- or half-dome-shaped insects with hard wing covers. About 200 species occur in California and most are predators both as adults and larvae. Some species specialize on aphids or other groups; others have a broader diet." (See Lady Beetles Card.)

What's for dinner?

Aphids. Maybe a 50-course meal?