Ladybugs are among the more tolerable insect types. For some people, they are considered cute, even if they stay in the house. Ladybugs are often admired for their round bodies, their orange-red coloring and of course their black spots. They certainly don't have the creepy factor that many people associate with other insects or spiders.
However, when it comes to the animal and insect world, cute appearances don't always lead to tame diets. In other words, adorable looking creatures often make a meal out of pretty bad things. Cats eat mice, beautiful birds eat worms, and the list goes on.
But what about the ladybug diet? We'll look at what they eat and specifically whether they eat ants.
Do ladybugs eat ants?
Ladybugs do not eat ants. However, it is not uncommon for ladybugs and ants to come into close contact. Ladybugs usually eat aphids (more on this below). However, certain ants are attracted to aphids because they eat sweet-tasting waste material called honeydew. You can probably see how this can lead to a conflict between ladybugs and ants. One wants to eat the aphids where the other wants them to stay alive and continue to produce waste.
Since some ants depend on aphids for their sugar-containing waste material, they offer protection for the aphids. This often means that ants have to fight predators like ladybugs to ward them off. The University of Wisconsin-Madison states that certain ants will go the extra mile to protect their aphid food source. This can include ants building shelter for aphids or even transporting them to another plant when the plant's sap is dry (3).
The video below shows how ants will protect their aphid food supply. The larger ladybug has a hard time defending itself against a group of ants.
What do ladybugs eat?
As indicated above, aphids are the preferred food of many ladybugs. Aphids are tiny beetles that feed on plant sap. Their eating behavior can damage or kill the vegetation. Ladybugs are a welcome place for farmers who want to control aphid infestation. Ladybugs eat a large amount of aphids, but aphids reproduce so quickly that ladybugs alone are often not enough to completely eliminate the problem (1).
You can buy ladybugs online to reduce the number of aphids in your home garden. These live ladybugs from Clark & Co Organic are an example of ladybugs that can be sent home to control aphids. A single ladybug can eliminate up to 50 aphids a day without harming the plants. A ladybug can eat up to 5,000 aphids in the course of its life (2).
However, not all ladybugs are the same in terms of their diet. Depending on the type of ladybug, they can feed on plants, whiteflies, powdery mildew, mites, meal bugs and various other types of insects.
Are Ladybugs Harmful At Home?
Ladybugs are actually an insect, which of course can be beneficial in a limited number in a house. Houseplants can have aphids, just like outdoor vegetation. Adding ladybirds to houseplants can help solve an aphid problem. This is especially true since the ladybugs are unlikely to have to struggle with ants or other disturbing creatures from the comfort of their own home. You need to be sure to only introduce ladybugs that eat aphids because certain ladybugs eat plants or are not interested in aphid diet.
Of course, most people don't invite ladybugs to their homes. They usually find a way in in autumn when they are looking for warmth for the cooler days. They rest during the winter months and wake up to look for a way out while the warmer spring days roll around. Ladybugs are not insects that cause structural damage to a house or harm people or pets. However, when you enter the house you may have many as others can be attracted to pheromones produced by the ladybugs inside (4).
Don't smash ladybugs as they contain a substance that can change color. It is best to leave them until they can go outside to help the garden. If this is not ideal for you, suction is often the best option. Other options are live traps or pyrethroid insecticides.
- University of Kentucky – Entomology – Aphids
- Planet Natural – ladybugs and aphids
- Master Gardener Program from the University of Wisconsin-Madison – Aphids
- Rutgers Today – The charming, useful ladybug