June 17, 2015
During Bug Fair, I found a ladybug in the Museum’s Nature Gardens, that didn’t look familiar. It didn’t have any spots, but it somehow looked different than all the other no-spotted ladybugs I’d seen before. I took its photo, posted it to our Nature Gardens Survey on iNaturalist, and then totally forgot about it.
Nine-spotted ladybug, photo taken by Harsi Parker
It wasn’t until a few weeks later, while I was preparing for a behind-the-scenes tour in entomology that something made me come back to that photograph. I was planning to talk about a big discovery made by a citizen scientist back in 2009—the time Harsi Parker discovered a rare nine-spotted ladybug in L.A.
Harsi Parker standing in Webb Canyon circa 2009
Today Harsi lives in Washington State, but back in 2009, Harsi lived in Claremont, right on the edge of L.A. and San Bernardino counties. On a summer day in 2009, Harsi went for a walk in Claremont’s Webb Canyon. As she passed a stand of mustard plants, she noticed an insect out of the corner of her eye. She looked closer and realized it was a ladybug—one she had never seen before. Not having her camera on her, and worrying she’d never find the ladybug again if she ran home to get it, Harsi picked the sprig of invasive mustard (she wouldn’t have done this if it was a native flower). She slowly and carefully walked the sprig with its precious cargo all the way back to her house. Once she was home Harsi immediately took photos of the ladybug, and began searching through her field guides to try and identify it. When she turned to the page with the nine-spotted ladybug, Coccinella novemnotata, Harsi got really excited—these are very rare ladybugs.
Nine-spotted ladybugs are native to North America, but their population numbers declined tremendously in the 1970s and 80s. Numbers declined so low that many scientists thought they were locally extinct in many parts of the U.S.
Knowing that nine-spotted ladybugs are rare, Harsi realized she had to share her find with the scientific community. She posted her photo to Cornell’s Lost Ladybug Project and promptly got confirmation that her ladybug was indeed a rare nine-spotted specimen. This was only the second time this lost ladybug had been reported to the project for the entire state of California!
While doing my research about Harsi’s story, I got a chance to really study her nine-spotted ladybug photographs. As I looked at them closely I realized they reminded me of the ladybug I had found in the Nature Gardens during Bug Fair.
My photo on the left; Harsi Parker's photo on the right
I put our photos side by side, and noticed that they both had a black line running down their back, they both had the same black-and-white pattern on the pronotum (the shield-like covering above a ladybug’s head), and they had the same white line between their eyes. Just like Harsi, I got really excited, “Did I just discover a ‘lost ladybug’ here in the Nature Gardens?”
Turns out my ladybug was a lost ladybug too! Within 24 hours, staff from Cornell responded to my picture and told me I had found the fourth nine-spotted ladybug in California. I couldn’t believe it! The odds of me finding a nine-spotted ladybug are small, but finding one while researching another nine-spotted finding was just too incredible.
I emailed Harsi to let her know what was taking place and she was thrilled. I told Harsi that our photos are forever linked, because if I hadn’t been researching her story then I wouldn’t have realized what I had seen. This goes to show that the power of citizen science is not only helping scientists collect valuable data points, but it is also connecting people through science and helping them to make big discoveries about the world we live in.
Photos from the Lost Ladybug tour during the First Fridays program on June 5.
Feeling inspired? We encourage all of you to look for ladybugs this summer. Take their photos and send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may not find a nine-spotted ladybug, but you will be contributing to our understanding of nature in L.A.
Written by Richard Smart
August 12, 2016
August 9, 2016
January 18, 2013
A few weeks ago, I was having a terrible day at work. The next day, my friend and colleague, Kristina Lockaby, brought me a card that said, "Ladybugs make me smile." This is so true.
A recent ladybug that made me smile REALLY big, was one that our Head Gardener, Richard Hayden, found. He was out in the urban wilderness and stopped a moment to take a closer look at one of the willow shrubs. He noticed lots of aphids and a few ladybugs too. One in particular stood out to him. It was all black with two red spots on it, something he had never seen before on a ladybug.
He put the little beetle in a snap top jar and brought it up to our shared office. "Lila, I have a present for you!" he exclaimed as he came in. I immediately stopped staring blankly at my computer screen and turned to see what booty he was bringing in from the garden. He silently handed me the jar, I took a look, and I smiled.
Richard had collected a twice-stabbed ladybug. These ladybugs are so named for their color and pattern. Unlike most ladybugs, they are black with red spots. Two red spots to be precise, and that according to some, look like the poor little beastie had been stabbed by some sadistic Homo sapiens.
I'd previously found one of these ladybugs in a similar location, but before the garden had even been planted. However, taking a close look at the specimen Richard had handed me, I realized it was a little bit different. The spots were much larger, of a slightly different shape, and overall there was just something that made me think, "Mmmmmm, maybe this is a different type of twice-stabbed ladybug."
And it was!
Twice-stabbed Ladybug, Chilocorus cacti
This brings the total number of ladybugs in the garden to eight! Check out one of our previous ladybug blogs to see what other species we have found, or how about this one?
Check out our submission on the Lost Ladybug project website!
March 22, 2011
New Ladybug Record For North CampusOn a recent jaunt around the Museum I found a new ladybug record for the North Campus. Yes, I do get paid to walk around outside and look for insects (awesome job)! I also get paid to keep track of all the creatures we find out there and make sure they are added to our ever expanding North Campus species list. Including this new record, we have found seven different species of ladybugs in the North Campus!
This is Adalia bipunctata, also known as the Two-spotted Ladybug. One of the many things I love about ladybugs is they are so aptly named! Just refer to our Lost Ladybug Field Guide for Los Angeles and you'll find fantastically named species such as the Seven-spotted Ladybug, the Convergent Ladybug, and my favorite, the Twice-stabbed Ladybug (all of which have been found in the North Campus)! This two-spotted ladybug, was found on a bush, recently emerged from its pupa, and then I snapped its picture.Maybe you have Two-spotted Ladybugs in your neighborhood, or what about another species that hasn't been recorded in Los Angeles yet? Check out our Lost Ladybug website for easy to follow instructions, so you can help me track ladybugs in L.A.
March 9, 2011
If you read the previous post, you already know the basic idea of the North Campus. Now let's talk more about citizen science. We have three citizen science projects, what we like to call Community Science, that anyone can participate in. They are the Los Angeles Spider Survey, Lost Lizards of Los Angeles (aka LLOLA), and the Lost Ladybug Project which we host in partnership with Cornell University. All these projects help us collect data about what's living here in L.A. today. For instance, recently a LLOLA participant found a new lizard lounging in the Chatsworth area of L.A. Now when I say this lizard was lounging, I'm serious, they hang out by porch lights and wait for flying insects to be attracted. When a moth, or some other unsuspecting insect flies in, the lizard pounces and gobbles up the delicious treat. These Mediterranean House Geckos had never been found in L.A. County before, so it was a new record for science, and discovered by a tween no less!
Immature Mediterranean House Gecko, found by LLOLA participant Reese Bernstein and family.