Ladybirds "ferocious as a shark" used to target invasive insect pest
March 29, 2024 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Ladybirds "ferocious as a shark" used to target invasive insect pest. There are some things that are cute to us like ladybirds — but not if you're a tomato potato psyllid, a wasp-like pest that can halve crop yields.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (7 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't know what a lady bug larvae looks like, I highly recommend you look it up! They look like tiny little dragons.
posted by foxfirefey at 9:22 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]

Cool! I have a minor nitpick: I can see why they call these particular psyllids "wasp-like" bc of the stripes, but they aren't really much like wasps at all in terms of their morphology or ecology. They far more like their sister taxa, the aphids and scale insects.

In poking around to learn about native Australian psyllids, I came across the fantastic term "lerp", for the hardened shell of honeydew many AU species make during the larval stage. From the Wikipedia page: Lerps are energy rich, consisting mostly of starch, with some proteins and fats... The word is derived from the Wemba Wemba word lerep. Lerps are traditionally eaten by Indigenous people, and can be stored as dry balls for future use.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:27 PM on March 29 [4 favorites]

PhD researcher Shovon Chandra Sarkar said the psyllid was relatively new to the state and that ladybirds needed to be trained to recognise them as food.
"I feed them with psyllid in the lab; first for one generation or for some days," he said.
"I found that if I train them, their babies directly start eating psyllid."
How do they pass on a taste for psyllid?
posted by pracowity at 12:40 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. This is cool.

I’ve watched ladybug larvae chow down on aphids. Little critters can have big appetites.
posted by kinnakeet at 4:15 AM on March 30

It's all a matter of scale.

Yes. One ladybird bug, cute. Millions of them, driven to the coast by persistent winds, clinging to everything remotely flower-like in color, aggressive from starvation and desperately fighting not to get blown to the open sea, not as cute.
posted by Ashenmote at 4:16 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]

The research paper is published (open access) here. I haven't read it carefully but it looks like they aren't yet reporting on maternal diet influence on offspring preference. However they do say that the maternal dietary history of the ladybird species, Menochilus sexmaculatus Fabricius (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), altered the dietary choice of the offspring (Yadav et al., 2023).

Plot twist: the Yadav paper is about cannibalism! Also open access, here.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:30 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]

This lead me to research buying ladybugs bc were doing raised beds and bananas coverings bc deer.
We shouldn't buy ladybugs, says all the in the know internet people. Can spread disease. Think of it like firewood rules.
posted by atomicstone at 4:25 PM on March 30

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