- The official state insect of New York is the nine-spotted lady beetle, known for its attractive appearance and once thought to be extinct.
- The decline of the nine-spotted lady beetle is an unsolved mystery, with no clear link to changing habitats or invasive species.
- New York is home to 11 other ladybug species, each with their own unique appearance and diet.
New York is a state located in the northeastern region of the United States. It is bordered on the south side by New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To the east are the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Along the northern edge are Quebec and Ontario (Canada). The state’s largest city, New York City, is known worldwide as a hub for finance, culture, entertainment, fashion, and media. However, beyond its bustling metropolis lies vast natural landscapes, including mountains such as the Adirondacks and Catskills with picturesque lakes like Lake George & Finger Lakes, which are home to diverse wildlife species, including mammals like black bears & white-tailed deer, while birds include American goldfinch or blue jay among many others.
The official state insect of New York is the nine-spotted lady beetle (Coccinella novemnotata). It is native to North America and has been the official state insect of New York since 1989. It was once thought to be extinct and was not seen in the wild for 14 long years. Finally, one was spotted on the East Coast in 2006. Since then, more than 20 of them were found in New York on a farm out in Amagansett.
The nine-spotted lady beetle is a small, oval-shaped insect with a bright orange or red body and black spots. It measures about 0.25 inches in length and has six legs and two antennae. Its wings are also bright orange or red with nine distinct black spots. There are four spots on each wing, and the ninth spot is split evenly, half of it on each wing.
The head of the nine-spotted lady beetle is small and rounded, with large compound eyes that allow it to see movement from far away. Its mouthparts are designed for chewing, allowing it to feed on aphids, mites, and other soft-bodied insects.
Overall, the nine-spotted lady beetle has an attractive appearance due to its vivid colors and symmetrical markings. It can be easily recognized among other species of lady beetles by its distinctive ninth spot placement.
The nine-spotted lady beetle has traditionally called North America, specifically the United States and southern Canada, its home. Unfortunately, this species has become increasingly uncommon in its native range. It used to be the most frequently collected beetle in the northeast US until the early 1990s. After that, it wasn’t seen again in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Delaware until 1986-1988 and in Maine until 1992. It was another 14 years before any specimens were found again in 2006. Recently, the nine-spotted lady beetle has only been found here and there around the Midwest and Western parts of the US.
Why the Decline?
Harmonia axyridis, an invasive lady beetle, is sometimes blamed for the dwindling numbers of nine spotted lady beetles, but this species was already becoming rare in some areas before the Harmonia axyridis arrived. Studies have been done to see if changing agricultural habitats has anything to do with it, but they don’t seem to be linked. Ultimately, their decline is an unsolved mystery.
11 Other Ladybugs of New York
Cardinal Ladybird – Novius cardinalis
This lady beetle has short hair covering its upper side, red wings with large black spots, brown feet, and black legs. Its antennae are also brown. It can be found all over the state of New York. Native to Australia, it was intentionally introduced here as a pest control insect. It now lives all over the glove (except Antarctica). These handy bugs eat mites and aphids and a type of scale called cottony cushion scale.
Convergent Lady Beetle – Hippodamia convergens
This lady beetle has a dark orange body and up to 13 spots. The spots are black and vary in size. It has a black heat with two elongated white markings. It is native to New York, so you may be able to spy one in your own garden. These beetles eat aphids, whiteflies, and other insects. They also like to munch on pollen and plants. In a cold New York winter, look for large groups of convergent lady beetles. They huddle together to stay warm!
Fourteen-Spotted Ladybird Beetle – Propylea quatuordecimpunctata
This lady beetle is either cream or yellow, but never red. There is a lot of variation to the spot pattern, but the number is always fourteen. It has yellow legs and antennae and is widespread across New York. Originally, it was introduced here to control aphids and decided to stay. It likes to live in meadows, forests, fields, and parks. If you want to find one, look in leaf or compost piles. It prefers decomposing plant material, and eating insects and their eggs.
Seven-Spotted Ladybug – Coccinella septempunctata
This red beauty has three spots on each wing and one larger spot in the middle, near its head. Their heads are black with two squarish white marks. If you want to find one, look in gardens, parks, forests, meadows, or fields. You will find them eating huge amounts of aphids in grasslands and farms too! They came from Europe and are thriving here. Did you know that ladybugs excrete a gross-tasting liquid out of their legs that makes them taste yucky to predators?
Pink-Spotted Lady Beetle – Coleomegilla maculata
What could be better than a pink lady beetle? These lovely insects are flatter than other lady beetles and have an oblong shape with six black spots on each wing. This beetle is also known as the 12-spotted lady beetle. They mostly live on food crops, so if you have a vegetable garden, keep your eye out. The pink-spotted lady beetle eats aphids, insect eggs, mites, nectar, and pollen. They are actually big fans of pollen, and this makes up half of their daily diet. Yet another great reason to plant a pollinator garden!
Two-Spotted Lady Beetle – Adalia bipunctata
This dainty lady beetle has one back spot on each of its red wings. It is a round-shaped beetle with a black head that has two large white spots. The two-spotted lady beetle lives on shrubbery and trees mostly and eats insects. It lives throughout the entire state of New York.
Twenty-Spotted Lady Beetle – Psyllobora vigintimaculata
This unusual lady beetle has a cream color with twenty black spots. Each black spot is edged in dark brown. Some of the spots may run or bleed together. This one is the “Wee-Tiny” ladybug and is the smallest ladybeetle in New York! It also has a different diet than some others. It prefers to eat mildew and fungus! On cold days, look for large groups of twenty-spotted lady beetles. They snuggle together to stay warm while hibernating.
Thirteen-Spotted Lady Beetle – Hippodamia tredecimpunctata
This oblong orange lady beetle has 13 black spots. It is a bit larger than some other lady beetles and has a black-and-white pattern on its head. If you want to find one, look in wet areas like flood plains, marshes, and lakes. You can see them on shrubs and tall grasses, munching away on aphids.
Fifteen-Spotted Lady Beetle – Anatis labiculata
There is quite a bit of variation in the color of this lady beetle. They are most often a light gray or reddish-gray color. But they can also be white, orange, or even red, which is so dark it is nearly purple! They have 15 beautiful black spots and a head black head with several white spots. This lady beetle likes to live in forests in New York and can consume up to 75 aphids and other insects in one day!
Eye-Spotted Lady Beetle – Anatis mali
This lady beetle is nearly a perfectly round circle shape. It is brownish-red with black spots. Each black spot has a ring of yellowish-white around it, making them look like eyes with pupils. Their heads are black with a pair of white spots. In New York, they prefer to live up on the top of conifer trees, but you can often see them on lower branches if you look closely. They eat aphids mainly but will munch on other insects and their eggs as well.
Three-Banded Lady Beetle – Coccinella trifasciata
This fascinating lady beetle does not have spots but stripes instead! It is red or orange-red and has three black bands running along each wing. The head is black with two white marks at the front of its face. In New York, it is one of the rarer ladybeetles to spy, but if you watch out for them in gardens, woodlands, and meadows, you may see one. They eat caterpillars, soft-bodied insects, nectar, pollen, and of course, aphids.
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