Ladybug metamorphosis

When I returned from my visit to California in late August, I found one of the swamp milkweed plants covered with aphids.  As I reported in a previous blog, this attracted not only parasitoid wasps, but predatory ladybird beetles and lacewings, who laid their eggs on the plants.

Almost three weeks later, the aphids have almost disappeared, except for those on a couple of milkweed pods.  There are huge numbers of aphid mummies, parasitized by the wasps, and it looks like the larval predators of the beetles and lacewings have cleaned house.

The following slideshow is a sort of time-lapse sequence of what has occurred over the past two weeks as the last instar of Asian ladybird beetle larvae pupated on the leaves and pods of the milkweed and finally emerged as an adult.  After more than 10 days of pupation, they are just now starting to emerge, and I caught one of them in the act of shedding its pupal case. The beetles are uniformly yellow-orange when they emerge, and gradually get their spots over the next few hours.

Beetles go through a metamorphic change during the pupal stage, just as butterflies and other insects do.  The body plan is reorganized, and the adult that emerges from the pupal case bears no resemblance to the larval stage.

(The slideshow loops continuously, but if it doesn’t work in your browser, hover your mouse over the photos or click on the forward, backward, or pause buttons to play the slideshow.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

7 thoughts on “Ladybug metamorphosis

  1. Wow. This is the most effective use of a slide show that I have seen on a blog. Seeing the metamorphosis like this is amazing. It gives new meaning to the expression “coming out of your shell.” I have been watching some milkweed plants at a local garden all summer and will have to look for evidence of similar changes. Thanks for sharing these remarkable images, Sue.

  2. Thanks, Mike. I had no idea how to create a sideshow, but it turned out to be really easy. I am not a big fan of WordPress, but this is a really nice feature.

  3. You have shown us two cycles in the same story. The larger view interested me in that the aphid infestation was controlled naturally and was beneficial to other species. The ladybird story was amazing. I had seen pictures of the larvae but I’ve never been able to spot one myself. I now realise that I have seen the pupal stage and had no idea what it was, so I am very excited that I’ve found out. Fantastic pictures!

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  5. Excellent slide show. I will have to search for the YouTube how-to myself. I have observed and photographed these metamorphoses with our native ladybirds. Sadly, I rarely see them in my garden or along the towpath of my local river any more as they have been overtaken by the Asian ladybirds. I was interested to see your shot of the parasitic wasp too. I have been photographing the different wasps in my garden this year. Some new ones, or at least ones I have only now started to notice. Identification proves tricky with the very small black ones though!

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