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Wednesday, 21 June 2006 00:00

Let’s get buggy with it

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“Daddy, Daddy come see!” called Izzy, my four-year-old daughter, running down the sidewalk to catch me as I was leaving for work.

“See what?” I asked.

“My ladybugs, they hatched,” she said.

I went back inside and sure enough there in “Ladybug Land” were about a dozen freshly “hatched” ladybugs.

A little over a week earlier we had received about 15 ladybug larvae in the mail. They were released into Ladybug Land – a clear plastic enclosure with a magnifier cap that let Izzy keep an eye on them. The larvae don’t look anything like adult ladybugs. The larvae of this particular species – pink spotted ladybug – are orange and black, a little over a quarter of an inch long and have six legs. Ample food comes with the larvae.

After the larvae reach full size — this takes about three weeks in the wild — they attach themselves to the sides of Ladybug Land where they pupate. After five to seven days the pupa cracks and the adult ladybug emerges.

The adults are soft and dull looking when they first emerge because their outer shell hasn’t hardened yet. This process takes a few hours. The adult swallows air, which helps it puff up and helps the shell harden.

We soaked some raisins in water – per our ladybug instructions – and cut them and dropped them in Ladybug Land after the adults emerged for them to feed on. We kept the bugs in their container for another day to be sure the shell had hardened. The next day we took them outside to a large rock in the yard where we opened Ladybug Land and let the beetles crawl out.

Our ladybugs came from a company called Insect Lore. You can check them out online at www.insectlore.com. Last year, through the same company, we purchased the Butterfly Garden Habitat.

With this kit we received a mesh enclosure and a small container with five painted lady caterpillars and food.

The metamorphosis is similar to the ladybugs. The caterpillars eat and grow and then crawl to the top of the container and attach themselves. Here, instead of the pupa of the ladybug, they form a chrysalis. At this point, you remove the lid with chrysalis attached and secure it with a safety pin to the side of the mesh enclosure.

After about a week the chrysalis will begin to split and the adult butterfly will emerge.

Last year, the separation anxiety was a bit tougher for Izzy. At first she wanted to keep “her” butterflies. So, again per instructions, we put some cut flowers on the bottom of the Butterfly Garden and drizzled sugar water over them for the butterflies to eat. We let Izzy keep them in her room overnight and the next day with a bit of coaxing she released them.

After a year of emphasizing that wild things belong in the wild, I’m happy to say that Izzy was the one who announced it was time to release this year’s ladybug hatch.

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