New illustrations – genus Delphastus complete!

I’ve just added a new illustration of the Catalina Lady Beetle (Delphastus catalinae) and redrawn illustrations of the Whitefly Predator (Delphastus pusillus) and Pale Whitefly Predator (Delphastus pallidus). These small beetles (under 2mm long) play a large part in biocontrol of whiteflies. Two additional western species are nearly indistinguishable from the Whitefly Predator (in fact, they were once believed to be the same species), but in the east, genus Delphastus can be told apart by color.

The most common and widespread species is the Whitefly Predator, a very dark brown or black beetle with small pale areas on the pronotum. It ranges from New England to Central Florida and west to the Great Plains. (It was formerly believed to occur from coast to coast, until the two western species were split from it. For the record, those are Delphastus sonoricus and Delphastus dejavu.)

Whitefly Predator, Delphastus pusillus

Whitefly Predator, Delphastus pusillus

Also native to eastern North America is the Pale Whitefly Predator, a light- to medium-brown species whose range is limited to Florida. It is evenly colored all over, with no darker or lighter areas on the pronotum.

Pale Whitefly Predator, Delphastus pallidus

Pale Whitefly Predator, Delphastus pallidus

The Catalina Lady Beetle is native to California, but has been introduced to eastern North America for biocontrol. Though widely released, it has only become permanently established in the southern U.S. Its color is midway between the other two species, a medium- to dark brown, with the center of the pronotum somewhat darker, but no distinctly pale areas on the pronotal margins.

Catalina Lady Beetle, Delphastus catalinae

Catalina Lady Beetle, Delphastus catalinae

All three species eat whiteflies, and are often found in manmade plantings such as greenhouses, arboreta, and agricultural areas, where they have been released or naturalized for biocontrol. Their natural habitat is poorly known, but probably includes herbacious plants and bushes that whiteflies feed on. As “LBLBs” (little brown lady beetles) go, they are fairly distinctive, with their rotund shape and glossy surface. Most other LBLBs are elongated and oval in shape, hairy, or both. Plus, any small lady beetle that you encounter feeding on whiteflies is almost certainly Delphastus!

 

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New illustrations – genus Exochomus is complete!

I finally picked up the pencils again this past weekend and started drawing again for the first time since October. I was a little worried that I’d have lost my touch, but this drawing of the dark form of the Margined Lady Beetle (Exochomus marginipennis) turned out so well, I realized I’d have to redraw my old Exochomus illustrations to keep up with it!

Margined Lady Beetle (1), Exochomus marginipennis

Margined Lady Beetle (1), Exochomus marginipennis

This species is highly variable, and while this dark form is the most common, it can also have the dark areas broken into spots. A pale form with only two spots occurs along the Gulf Coast and in Texas.

Margined Lady Beetle (2), Exochomus marginipennis

Margined Lady Beetle (2), Exochomus marginipennis

The other Exochomus in eastern North America is the nominate subspecies of Children’s Lady Beetle (Exochomus childreni childreni). I admit the common name sounds a little odd, but it isn’t related to young people; it honors the British naturalist John George Children (1777-1852), the founding president of the Royal Entomological Society of London. The typical form of this species strongly resembles the pale form of the Margined Lady Beetle, but notice the entirely black pronotum and the additional spot at the rear of the body.

Children's Lady Beetle (1), Exochomus childreni childreni

Children's Lady Beetle (1), Exochomus childreni childreni

Just to complicate matters a little more, Children’s Lady Beetle can also vary in pattern, with a dark form resembling the typical form of the Margined Lady Beetle. However, the dark areas are smaller and more narrowly-connected, and again the pronotum is entirely black.

Children's Lady Beetle (2), Exochomus childreni childreni

Children's Lady Beetle (2), Exochomus childreni childreni

In most of eastern North America, the only species of Exochomus is the Margined Lady Beetle; you only have to worry about telling it apart from Children’s Lady Beetle in Florida. (On the western Gulf Coast and in Texas, there’s the other subspecies to worry about, Exochomus childreni guexi; it looks much more like the Margined Lady Beetle, with pale markings on the pronotum. I’ll tackle that one in my next field guide!)

Genus Exochomus is in subfamily Chilocorinae, and like most of the subfamily it primarily feeds on scale insects. However, it will also consume aphids. The habitat of these beetles is poorly known; scale feeders may occur mainly on trees, while aphid feeders may visit low herbacious plants. The only one I’ve encountered was a larva of Exochomus childreni guexi eating aphids on a milkweed vine twined around tall grass at the edge of a river, and I was able to raise the larva to adulthood on another species of aphid. This may not be typical for the species or genus as a whole, but it does offer some idea of where to look for them!

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Twice-stabbed Lady Beetles…and not so twice-stabbed

A leading candidate for the Best Lady Beetle Name award is the Twice-stabbed Lady Beetle (Chilocorus stigma), a dramatic-looking black species with two red spots. The pattern is not unique, though, and many other black-with-two-red-spots are often misidentified and called “twice-stabbed” – perhaps at least partially because it’s more fun to say “I found a twice-stabbed lady beetle” than “I found a member of the Hyperaspis signata group that can only be identified by dissecting the male genitalia.” Here are some tips for distinguishing the Twice-stabbed Lady Beetle from its many imitators.*

First, the “real thing,” Chilocorus stigma:

Twice-stabbed Lady Beetle, Chilocorus stigma

Twice-stabbed Lady Beetle, Chilocorus stigma

Notice the flared edges, shield-like shape, and solid black pronotum (the part of the thorax visible above the wings). These features are shared by other members of subfamily Chilocorinae, and several western species are nearly identical to C. stigma and can only be told apart via dissection. Fortunately, the eastern Chilocorinae are externally distinctive. You can be sure it’s C. stigma if the spots are round, further forward than the middle of the body, and the underside is half red and half black.

The two subfamilies with the most similar species are Scymninae, especially genus Hyperaspis, and Coccinellinae. Here is a sample scymnine, the Signate Lady Beetle (Hyperaspis signata).

Signate Lady Beetle, Hyperaspis signata

Signate Lady Beetle, Hyperaspis signata

Notice the smooth oval shape, lack of a flared “rim,” and the white markings on the pronotum. No red-spotted black Chilocorus has white on the pronotum, and while some are more oval than others, all have a flared rim. Hyperaspis species are typically smaller, too, and the underside is brown or black. (Note that female Hyperaspis may not have white on the pronotum, but the shape and size are consistent in both sexes.)

A sample species from Coccinellinae is the melanic (dark) form of the Ashy-gray Lady Beetle (Olla v-nigrum):

Ashy-gray Lady Beetle, Olla v-nigrum

Ashy-gray Lady Beetle, Olla v-nigrum

This smooth oval species always has white markings on the pronotum in both sexes. Typically the red spots are more triangular or half-moon shaped than round; they may also be ragged with irregular edges. If you’re wondering how to tell this species from the Hyperaspis with white-marked pronota, it is almost always larger and the underside is yellow-orange.

That’s the brief rundown of the common red-spotted black lady beetles. I’ll post additional entries on telling the Chilocorus species from each other, and on other melanic forms of Coccinellinae, just as soon as I get around to illustrating them!


*It may be literally true that the other species are imitators – Chilocorinae are among the worst-tasting lady beetles, and the lookalikes may be using Batesian mimicry to fool predators into thinking they’re just as unappetizing.

Posted in Chilocorinae, Chilocorus, Coccinellinae, Hyperaspis, Identification, Lady Beetles, Olla, Scymninae | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All over but the scymnines…

Three more subfamilies have all the info pages complete: colorful Coccidulinae; popular Coccinellinae; and plant-eating Epilachninae. That just  leaves Scymninae, the largest subfamily, and I’ve even finished all but one genus of that one.

Subfamily Coccidulinae is represented in eastern North America by just four species, three of them introduced from elsewhere in the world for biocontrol. In fact, the first insect ever imported anywhere for biocontrol was the Vedalia Lady Beetle (Rodolia cardinalis), an Australian species that saved the California citrus industry in the 1800s. It’s still an important beneficial predator in citrus-growing areas of California, Texas, and Florida.

Vedalia Lady Beetle, Rodolia cardinalis

Vedalia Lady Beetle, Rodolia cardinalis

Subfamily Coccinellinae is the second-largest in North America and contains many of the most popular, familiar species: the black-spotted red aphid predators that most people think of when they hear the word “ladybug.” One species that has been in the news recently is the Nine-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella novemnotata), the state insect of New York, which was rediscovered there for the first time in 35 years. The species has been rapidly declining in the east, but scientists hope to repopulate it through captive breeding.

Nine-spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella novemnotata

Nine-spotted Lady Beetle, Coccinella novemnotata

No one’s trying to introduce or repopulate anything in subfamily Epilachninae – these plant-eating lady beetles are decidedly unwelcome in gardens! Fortunately there are only four species in North America. The most interesting backstory belongs to the Mexican Bean Beetle (Epilachna varivestis), which was accidentally brought to the U.S. during the Civil War via hay imported from Mexico to feed army horses.

Mexican Bean Beetle, Epilachna varivestis

Mexican Bean Beetle, Epilachna varivestis

Although work on the site is far from done, I’m glad to have three more subfamilies’ information pages complete! Now, to finish off subfamily Scymninae…and then get back to drawing…

 

Posted in Coccidulinae, Coccinella, Coccinellinae, Drawings, Epilachna, Epilachninae, Info Pages, Lady Beetles, Rodolia, Updates | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brachiacantha – another subfamily down

Genus Brachiacantha is one of my favorites: small, colorful, boldly-patterned lady beetles that can be easily identified to genus by the small spur on the foreleg. (You need a magnifying glass to  see it, but it’s foolproof!) There are 11 species in eastern North America, one with two subspecies; I’ve done info pages for all, and there are 9 illustrations. A few examples of these lovely little beetles:

Orange-spotted Lady Beetle, Brachiacantha ursina

Orange-spotted Lady Beetle, Brachiacantha ursina

Schwarz's Lady Beetle, Brachiacantha schwarzi

Schwarz's Lady Beetle, Brachiacantha schwarzi

Proper Lady Beetle, Brachiacantha decora

Proper Lady Beetle, Brachiacantha decora

The food preferences and habitats of these beetles are poorly known, but they may prey on scale insects. The larvae of at least one species are known to live in ant nests, eating the food that the ants bring back for their own young. (They apparently don’t eat the ants themselves, just the “pantry.”) The genus is in need of more study, and if I had to sit down and specialize in a single genus, this would be it!

 

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Hyperaspis information pages are complete…finally!

Genus Hyperaspis is one of the largest in North America – there are 32 species in the east alone – but consists of very tiny beetles, none more than 5 mm long. I’ve finally finished all 32 species pages, most with information only, but 8 have full-color illustrations. They are some of the most beautiful, colorful lady beetles, and it’s a shame they’re so small! Here are just a few – click on the image for a full species page:

Bolter's Lady Beetle, Hyperaspis bolteri

Bolter's Lady Beetle, Hyperaspis bolteri

Connected Lady Beetle, Hyperaspis connectens

Connected Lady Beetle, Hyperaspis connectens

Undulate Lady Beetle, Hyperaspis undulata

Undulate Lady Beetle, Hyperaspis undulata

Hyperaspis species are aphid and scale predators, but they probably also consume other small, soft-bodied insects and insect eggs. They are extremely similar to genus Brachiacantha, but lack the distinctive foreleg spurs of that genus. (You need a magnifying glass to see the difference, but it’s a surefire way to tell them apart!)

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Info pages for Sticholotidinae are complete!

Sticho-what-inae? It’s a mouthful, indeed! Pronounced “stick-o-low-tid-i-nye,” it’s the name of a subfamily of tiny, dull-colored lady beetles. Although I have not yet completed the drawings for all the Eastern species of this subfamily, I have created info pages for them: English and Latin names, etymology, size, food, habitat, and range descriptions, and references to similar species. Check out the Sticholotidinae page to read about them and see the completed illustrations.

(Okay, there are only two illustrations so far; what can I say, tiny dull-colored lady beetles are not thrilling to draw! I like to alternate drawing the the bright, boldly-patterned species with the dull species  so I don’t get bored.)

 

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“Eastern Lady Beetles” is on the Web!

It’s official: Eastern Lady Beetles is on the Web! The Facebook page at www.facebook.com/easternladybeetles has become quite popular, and it was time to expand to a full Web site. (Besides, not everyone in the world is on Facebook quite yet.) To increase Web presence, there are also brand-new Twitter and Pinterest accounts for ELB. Follow them at twitter.com/#!/easternladybugs and pinterest.com/easternladybugs. (I did try to get the account name “easternladybeetles” for them, but that 15-character username limit got in the way.)

I’ve been working almost non-stop on this site for 4 days, creating pages for all subfamilies and genera (that’s the plural of “genus”), as well as many species pages. Some of the species pages have my final, full-color illustrations; others, though lacking illustrations, still have information about the species. I anticipate that it will take about at year to finish the illustrations; I try to draw at least one a day, so check back often for new illustrations!

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