The pink spotted lady beetle (also called pink ladybird beetle, pink ladybug), Coleomegilla maculate, is an important beneficial insect commonly found in Missouri's field crops. A native North American insect, it is found throughout the eastern two-thirds of the US from Canada through New England and into many Southern and Midwestern states. Adults and larvae of this predator can be found inhabiting a wide variety of field crops including alfalfa, corn, cotton, rice, sorghum, and soybean. Using their chewing mouthparts, they feed primarily on aphids, but also consume insect eggs, mites, other soft bodied insects, plant nectar and pollen, and aphid honeydew. This beneficial insect is active in Missouri from April into October in most years.
The adult stage of this lady beetle is teardrop to oval in shape and approximately ¼ inch in length. Six black spots are present on each forewing with and additional two roughly triangular spots located on the shield behind the head. Eggs are small, oval shaped, yellow in color, and laid in singularly or in small clumps on plant surfaces near suitable host infestations. Larvae are alligator shaped with dark bodies, three distinct pairs of legs, and faded yellow or pink spots of coloration located near the 3rd pair of legs and in a band running around the abdomen about halfway between the 3rd pair of legs and the abdomen tip. Pupae attach to leaf surfaces to await adult emergence and possess coloration similar to larvae.
Adults aggregate in protected sites near crop fields to overwinter. In early spring they leave overwintering sites and disperse to crop fields to feed, mate, and lay eggs. Two to five generations of C. maculata are produced each year depending weather conditions and the availability of food. Pink spotted lady beetles can be encouraged to stay in an area through the planting of pollen producing plants. They may be purchased from scientific supply houses for release in an area, although they will readily move into an area if aphids and other food items are available. In Missouri, the pink ladybug commonly feeds on aphid infestations found in wheat and alfalfa during early spring before moving on to other field, horticultural, or vegetable crops.
REVISED: October 2, 2015