by Dr. Tamra Reall, University of Missouri Extension
There are yellow, orange, red ladybugs - are they all actually ladybugs?
Yes, they are all part of the ladybug family! Ladybugs, also called ladybirds, belong to a big beetle family. Ladybugs are oval-shaped and can be yellow, orange, or red like what you have found. They can also be gray, black, brown, or even pink! Sometimes they have spots, but not always. So, if you see a little beetle with an oval body and different colors like yellow, orange, or red, it might just be a ladybug, even if it doesn’t have spots. Ladybugs come in lots of beautiful colors!
Why can bugs and spiders live inside our house during winter, but there aren’t any insects outside in the cold?
Think of our homes as cozy hideouts for insects and spiders during winter! Just like we find our houses warm and comfy, these critters seek refuge from the freezing cold outside. Those who come indoors may not be built to be active outside in the chilly temperatures, so they move inside where it's warm and there's food. Our homes offer refuge for them to stay snug until it gets warmer outside. You might be happy to know that not all arthropods can survive the winter indoors because our homes are usually too dry for them.
Common arthropods that come inside are nonnative ladybugs, stink bugs, or spiders. If you find them indoors, you can gently scoop them up and release them back outside. Or you can use a vacuum. But watch out—some insects, like stink bugs, can give off a funky smell if vacuumed up! Also, after cleaning, remember to empty the vacuum and take out the trash to keep these uninvited guests from returning!
How do insects survive when it gets so cold or warm in the same week?
Insects are experts at handling changing weather. As fall and winter arrive, some insects enter a dormant stage called diapause, almost like hibernation, to prepare to survive harsh conditions. Many insects rely on light to let them know what season we are in, rather than the temperature because it can change so much during our winters. So, even if it warms up for a day or two, they will stay in their dormant stage. Other insects can adjust to the changing temperatures and emerge or become active as the weather is favorable. Still, others do not survive when it gets cold enough, so they die off for the winter. Then, either their offspring emerge in the spring, or others of their species migrate here from southern climates as the weather warms up here. Insect abilities to change behaviors, life stages, and even body functions help them handle changing weather without skipping a beat.
How does climate change affect bugs?
Climate change affects insects in some big ways. Because of their short lifespans, many insects are super adaptable, but even they struggle when things get too out of whack. With the changing weather patterns, insects might have to move around more to find food and the right conditions to live in. Unfortunately, some insects can end up causing problems by moving into new places where they shouldn't be, like invasive pests crashing in where they don't belong and eating plants we don’t want them to eat. Brown marmorated stink bugs and Japanese beetles are examples of invasive pests.
You know how some insects and plants work together, such as bees and butterflies that pollinate flowers that create fruit? Well, the changing climate can affect that, too. Pollinators and their favorite flowers might not sync up like they used to, meaning flowers might bloom before the bees or butterflies have emerged to pollinate them. It's like they're playing different tunes in a band and it gets confusing!
This is a big issue, and it will take a lot of cooperation between governments, corporations, and organizations. However, we can help! Planting more flowers is awesome because it gives pollinators more food and we get more beautiful flowers. Using IPM (that's Integrated Pest Management, a fancy term for controlling pest insects without using too many chemicals) is very helpful too for the survival of beneficial predators who capture pests, so we don’t have to. Turning off lights at night is good because it helps insects that rely on the stars, moon, or Milky Way at night to navigate. So, creating more bug-friendly places for insects to live is a win-win. We can make a difference by helping our arthropod friends adapt to a changing world!
What's something strange about insects?
One incredibly unusual thing about insects is their diversity in communication. While many insects use sounds to communicate, some have really unique methods. For instance, treehoppers communicate by vibrating stems, honey bees dance to tell their sisters where to find the best nectar and pollen, and fireflies use light to attract mates. Also, many insects use pheromones, which are like special perfumes, to signal danger, attract partners, or create trails to find food and their way home. Their communication methods are exceptionally diverse and fascinating, showing just how creative nature can be!
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