Monday February 27, 2017 Q&A

The number of spots on a ladybug depends on:

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1 its social rank

2 its age

3 its species

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Correct answer: 3, its species Children like to count the spots on a ladybug to guess its age. In reality, the number of spots on its elytra, which is the scientific name for its wing covers, is determined not by its age, but its species. Ladybugs belong to the Coccinellidae family, which includes some 6,000 species around the world. Ladybugs as we typically know them – the ones children love to watch – are in the imago, or adult, stage of development. Their bodies won’t change any further. The number of spots they have is predetermined at birth and varies according to species. These tiny insects, of the Coleoptera order, can be highly diverse; often red, they can also be yellow or even black. And some species have as many as 22 spots! The species most common at our latitudes has seven spots, hence its name: Coccinelle septempunctata. While the number of spots on a red ladybug doesn’t change, its color does: born yellow, these ladybugs subsequently turn red only gradually. And as cute as they may be, they are also relentless killers – whether in the larvae or adult stage, they can eat up to 200 aphids a day. While we commonly associate ladybugs with bringing good fortune, in French they are known as “bêtes à bon dieu,” or “the Good Lord’s bugs.” This nickname comes from a 10th-century legend: an apprentice was accused of killing his boss and was sentenced to death, even though he claimed he was innocent. The day of the execution, the executioner saw a ladybug on the apprentice’s neck and couldn’t bring himself to kill it with his axe. He moved the ladybug, but every time it returned to the apprentice’s neck. The king at the time (Robert the Pious) then stepped in, claiming that the ladybug was a sign from God. He pardoned the apprentice. A few days later, the actual murderer was found. Source: www.axiomcafe.fr and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology