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:
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!