The name ladybird comes from a story that when farmers prayed for their crops to be safe from pests, ladybirds saved the crops by eating all the pests. So if you have a pest infestation, particularly a caterpillar infestation, can they help you? So, do ladybirds eat caterpillars or not?
Yes, ladybirds do eat caterpillars. Ladybirds eat other insects, especially pests, and among pests, caterpillars are one of their favourite snacks to munch on.
These brightly coloured, round beetles usually feed on aphids and thrips. Among pests, caterpillars are their favourite meal to eat. As caterpillars and aphids can damage plants, gardeners use ladybirds to remove these pests.
As caterpillars are soft and squishy, ladybirds don’t have any problem eating them.
Caterpillars damage many important crops and plants and can easily ruin pretty flowers in your garden. Luckily, we have natural pest control, which is ladybirds.
What Do Ladybirds Eat?
Ladybirds eat plants, but they’re not considered pests because they only take small bits of plants or flowers, which is not so much for the plants that they can get damaged.
Ladybirds, however, mainly eat other insects, especially those considered pests. Just as a ladybird hatches from its eggs, it begins eating, and newly born larvae can eat around 350 to 400 aphids in the space of just two weeks.
Besides aphids, they eat fruit flies, mites, and caterpillars, all of which can be considered pests. This makes them a farmer and gardener’s favourite as they’re like nature’s pest control. An individual ladybird can go through about 5,000 aphids in a brief lifetime.
Where Can You Find Ladybirds?
Ladybirds mostly come out in the summer and spring. You can find ladybirds in common grasslands, gardens, your yard, wooded areas, suburbs, near water, and agricultural fields.
Ladybird eggs are laid under leaves to protect them from predators. In winters, ladybirds vanish and signal each other to notify them that it’s mating time.
Are Ladybirds Helpful?
Ladybirds are very helpful for farmers and gardeners and are beneficial for your yard if you like to keep lots of fruit plants and flowers. They’re useful for gardens because they mainly feed on the insects that eat your plants, flowers, and fruits.
If you have a caterpillar infestation, then a couple of ladybirds will easily protect all your garden plants and flowers by eating all the caterpillars.
They usually eat any pest eggs or larvae before they could damage your yard in most cases, as they eat the eggs before they even hatch.
Many farmers and gardeners rely on ladybirds a lot for the protection of their crops, plants, and flowers. Ladybirds can live on trees as well, so if you have trees in your yard, ladybirds will eat all the tree-dwelling insects before they can cause any damage.
Ladybirds are the natural pest control, so if you have a yard or garden and want the greenery to always be healthy and grow, you’d want to have some ladybirds in there so no pests can damage your garden or yard.
Ladybirds are completely harmless to you and your children or pets, so there is no need to hurt them.
What Other Animals Eat Caterpillars?
Caterpillars aren’t only the favourite meal for ladybirds. And several other animals and insects like to eat these grubby insects.
Most species of birds love to eat caterpillars as they’re easy to eat and they’re softer than other insects. Birds, especially warbler species and tanagers, love to feast on caterpillars.
Canopy-dwelling birds munch on these squishy insects as well that they find crawling on trees and leaves.
Woodcocks and robins are also some of the birds that like to eat caterpillars. These birds like to eat the ones that are often seen on the ground. Sometimes caterpillars fall on the ground because of another predator.
Caterpillars are an easy catch for birds as they’re very slow, and most of them have no defence mechanisms. Their bright colours are also an obvious indication to birds that make them highly noticeable for birds.
European pied flycatchers are another species of bird that mainly eats caterpillars.
Some caterpillars, however, are poisonous or have extra appendages or patterns such as patterns in the shape of eyes or long tendrils coming out of their mouth that can scare off birds, but most of them don’t have these; hence, they make a very easy target for birds.
Yellow Jacket Wasps
Yellow jacket wasps are predatory insects that love to feed caterpillars to their babies by carrying the caterpillars into their nests.
Similarly, this makes these wasps useful like ladybirds as they carry caterpillars from yards and gardens, keeping their numbers controlled and lessening the chances of an infestation.
Only in early summers and springs is when a yellow jacket wasp would mainly eat caterpillars.
Ladybird beetles are nature’s natural pest control for every kind of pest that damages your flowers, plants, and fruits. Pests like mites, flies, and especially caterpillars are the favourite snack for ladybirds.
As caterpillars are always very hungry, they can fully devour complete plants, making them a big threat to gardens, crops, and yards. Ladybirds easily eat all the caterpillars making your garden or yard’s greenery healthy.
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Ryan is a keen gardener from the UK who’s spent years dealing with countless, common pests over the years so knows the ins and outs of how to deal with pests in the garden