I’m used to calling these insects Ladybugs (they are also called Ladybirds in some parts of the world) but entomologists (those who study insects) prefer the term Lady Beetles as they are not true bugs (an order of insects that includes aphids, planthoppers and cicadas). Of course they are not birds either.
The Lady Beetle family (Coccinellidae) has almost 500 species in North America. Approximately 180 of these species have been introduced, some of them intentionally to control aphids.
The most common species is the Multicoloured Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) introduced from Asia for aphid control. I’ve occasionally seen hundreds if not thousands of these on a small shrub. The “multicoloured” refers to the variation in the colour of the elytra (modified, hardened forewings which are used to protect the hindwings used for flying). The number of spots is also variable. One of the most distinguishing features is a W-shaped mark on the pronotum (exoskeletal plate that covers all or part of the thorax of some insects). The picture below shows the variation in colour, number of spots and pronotum marking. Reference 3 shows some other variations, some of them with black elytra.
Also common (the most common in Europe) is the 7-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella septempunctata – picture number 1 in the montage below), also introduced to control aphids. The rarely seen (and possibly extirpated in southern Ontario) native 9-spotted Lady Beetle (Coccinella novemnotata) began to decline in population soon after the introduction of the 7-spotted Lady Beetle. The introduction of non-native species of Lady Beetle may be responsible for the decline of many native species.
Below is a picture of the native 15-spotted Lady Beetle (Anatis labiculata). As with other Anatis species, it darkens with age making it difficult to distinguish the spots. It feeds on aphids. I have only seen this species a couple of times.
Looking like a dragon or crocodile, the larva of a Lady Beetle is one of the more unusual looking insects. The larva pictured below is one of the Anatis species. It is approximately 1 cm.
Listed and pictured below are the 12 other species of Lady Beetles that I have photographed in the Toronto area. Some of the these species may have less spots than that indicated by their name. Some of the spots may also be fused.
1) 7-spotted (Coccinella septempunctata) – feeds on aphids – native to Europe
2) 14-spotted (Propylea quatuordecimpunctata) – feeds on aphids – native to Europe
3) 20-spotted (Psyllobora vigintimaculata) – feeds on mildew – native to North America
4) 24-spotted or Alfalfa (Subcoccinella vigintiquatuorpunctata) – one of the few plant eating Lady Beetles – native to Eurasia
5) Variegated (Hippodamia variegata) – feeds on aphids – native to Europe
6) Large Parenthesis or Glacial (Hippodamia glacialis) – feeds on aphids – native to North America
7) Polished or Spotless (Cycloneda munda) – feeds on aphids – native to North America
8) Spotted or Pink-spotted (Coleomegilla maculata) – feeds on Dandelion pollen in early spring and then on aphids – native to North America
9) V-marked (Neoharmonia venusta) – feeds on soft-bodied insects and larvae – native to North America
10) Eye-spotted (Anatis mali) – feeds on aphids – native to North America
11) Orange-spotted (Brachiacantha ursina) – feeds on scale insects – native to North America
12) Double Twin-spotted (Hyperaspis bigeminata) – feeds on aphids and scale insects – native to North America
Ladybird, ladybird fly away home.
1) Lady Beetles of Ontario – http://www.uoguelph.ca/debu/lady/lady-beetles.htm
2) BugGuide – Coccinellidae – http://bugguide.net/node/view/179
3) Harmonia axyridis – variations – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Harmonia_axyridis01.jpg
4) Coccinellidae – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coccinellidae
5) Beetles of Eastern North America, Arthur V. Evans, ISBN 978-0-691-13304-1