Ladybird beetles (of the family Coccinellidae) are a fascinating group of insects. Thriving in all kinds of habitats, they are extremely diverse; around 6,000 species have been described worldwide. Although they are often recognized as beneficial predatory insectivores, their food preferences are in fact very large: some species are fungus feeders, and a few are herbivores that actually damage crops. Those predating on aphids and related species often come into competition with ants, so many ladybirds avoid ant contact. However, certain species are myrmecophilous: they love ants, and some even live inside ant nests and feed on ant brood. It is the high diversity of ladybird life-strategies that makes them a fantastic research subject. In short, ladybirds are sexy! Well, not all of them, because one has just been discovered that reproduces asexually! Another interesting story in the marvelous lives of ladybird beetles.
In the next installment of “Silent Spring Continued: A World without Insects,” environmental historian and curator of the series Birgit Müller recounts an interview with Alexandra Magro, an evolutionary ecologist working on, among other things, the life strategies of ladybird beetles. Alexandra’s fascination and insights are inspiring, and call into question the role of not just science, but intuition and curiosity, in exploring human interactions and futures with invertebrates.