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Dallas Morning News - January 9, 2020


Ladybugs in Disguise

 

One of the most popular topics on my speaking tour is Organic Pest Control. Fewer and fewer homeowners and business folks want to continue using toxic chemicals if low impact solutions that work are available. Of course they are - and that's what we talk about here most weeks.

 

First step in learning how to control pest insects is understanding how all the beneficial ones can help the process. It isn't discussed enough, but homeowners and farmers are eager to learn about how many beetles, flies, stink bugs, wasps and other insects are are totally beneficial and not harmful in any way.

 


Twice stabbed ladybug adult
 

Twice stabbed ladybug adult cleaning scale on crape myrtle

 

All ladybugs (or lady beetles – same insect) are beneficial but one of the best is in disguise to a degree. Chilocorus stigma, commonly known as twice-stabbed ladybug, is a native resident but stays hidden to a degree. These ladybugs are more rounded than others and have two red or orange dots on the back of the wing covers – thus the name. These ladybugs are mostly seen on pines, oaks, elms and other common trees. They feed on aphids and mealybugs, but seem to love to eat scale insects the most. And that’s a good thing. They even help control the white scale that commonly attacks unhealthy crape myrtles.

 


Ladybug eggs look like tiny footballs on end

Larva hatching from pupal case (Twice stabbed ladybug)

 

This helpful native can be found across Texas, throughout the country and into Canada. C. stigma is currently not a ladybug sold for commercial use in orchards or on farms. However, it loves to naturally inhabit gardens, farms and landscapes that aren't using toxic chemicals.

 


Twice stabbed ladybug pupae are usually black, but can be tan

 

Here in the south it has several lifecycles a year and then overwinters in ground litter during the colder months. C. stigma has been shown, like other ladybugs, to be highly susceptible to insecticides. This is why I warn people to not even use the "killing" organic insecticides like orange oil, essential oils, neem, horticultural oils, etc. except in rare, last resort occasions. The noxious chemistry stuff should never be used. It’s unnecessary, doesn't work well and is toxic.

 

You’ll find this wonderful little beetle on trunks and stems of trees primarily. It has typical ladybug eggs looking like tiny footballs clustered on ends. The pupae are quite different looking like small spikey sea urchins, commonly black but sometimes a tan color.

 


Ash grey ladybug

 

Another helpful ladybug you might see in your trees is the ash gray lady beetle. The adults are silver gray and like it in the canopy of trees. To learn more about this little friend of the plants and other helpful insects that should be protected from the toxic sprays and other ill-advised gardening and landscaping techniques, see the Texas Bug Book by Malcolm Beck and yours truly.

 

 

 

 

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