June 9, 2021
It's time for today's edition of #BenInNature presented by our friends at Carter Bank & Trust!
This is the fifteen spotted lady beetle (Anatis labiculata), and it's one of my favorite critters I've found since I started doing these daily nature posts more than a year ago! If you'll indulge me in a brief story, I'll explain why.
Back when I was a little kid, lady beetles were my entry point into entomology. I think that's true for a lot of young folks. Lady beetles are cute; they're often brightly colored, so they're easy to spot; they're completely harmless; and they're also voracious predators of aphids, the ultimate garden pest. It's hard not to like lady beetles (with the exception of the invasive multicolored Asian lady beetle Harmonia axyridis, but that's a different story).
I would pore through my insect field guides and study the various bugs within, and I was always fascinated by the many different varieties of native lady beetles. Some of them were black with red spots instead of the other way around, some were almost solid black, and some were even gray! Try as I might, however, I never could find the more unusual varieties.
Well, it took about 25 years, but I finally found one! And the fifteen-spotted lady beetle is a pretty interesting one, too. These beetles can be found in the eastern two-thirds of the U.S., and they're generally found in forests between April and July.
While this one is gray, fifteen spotted lady beetles can also be dark purple, sometimes so dark that the spots are barely visible. It was long thought that these beetles grew darker as they aged; however, recent evidence suggests that gray fifteen-spotteds and dark purple fifteen-spotteds are simply two different forms.
To all the budding naturalists out there, never give up! It may take awhile, but keep at it and you'll eventually find the critter you're looking for!
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends. This series of posts is made possible thanks to the support of VMNH Corporate Partner Carter Bank & Trust (www.cbtcares.com).
NATURE PHOTO IDENTIFICATIONS
If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!