An attractive but not-so-innocent littlesojourner on Mount Diablo
by Robert Smith
Mountain News, January 1999
Ladybugs inhabit many places in the world. Not bugs at all, they are VW-shaped beetles with hard, protective outer wings. Their coloration varies from region to region, but many ladybug species are predominantly red-orange with black spots. There are several species in California, the most prominent of which on Mount Diablo is Hippodamia convergens. These colorful, insects appear each winter by the hundreds of thousands on Mount Diablo. Guided by some inner map, they mass in the same sheltered ravines year after year, dispersing in the spring to search for food. However winsome they may seem to humans, ladybugs are rapacious armored tanks to their favorite prey, aphids. Because of the beneficial role they played in medieval Europe by ridding gardens and vineyards of aphids, they were reverentially dubbed “Our Lady” beetles, after the Virgin Mary; hence the derivation ladybug (“ladybird” in Britain). Look for swarms of adult ladybugs in dark, shaded ravines, especially on the Falls Trail.