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Help find the lost ladybugs

July 2, 2008 |  4:31 pm

9spotcropped_2 Two years ago in Virginia, two children made a discovery near their home in Arlington that still has scientists talking. They found a ladybug.

But it wasn't just any ladybug. It was a nine-spotted ladybug, and its discovery was the first sighting of a nine-spotted ladybug in the eastern U.S. in more than 14 years.

That's the word from the Department of Entomology at Cornell University, which is hoping youngsters across the country start documenting ladybugs in their own neighborhoods. This isn't to say everyone can duplicate the rare find made by Jilene and Jonathan Penhale (ages 11 and 10, respectively), but it could be a fun way to spend the summer.

In a statement, leaders of the Lost Ladybug Project explain their goal:

      "To be able to help the nine-spotted ladybug and other ladybug species, scientists need to have detailed information on which species are still out there and how many individuals are around. Entomologists at Cornell can identify the different species but there are too few of us to sample in enough places to find the really rare ones. We need you to be our legs, hands and eyes. If you could look for ladybugs and send us pictures of them on Email we can start to gather the information we need. We are very interested in the rare species but any pictures will help us. This is the ultimate summer science project for kids and adults! You can learn, have fun and help save these important species."

The Cornell entomologists recommend a three-step process:

1) Collect some bugs (be gentle).

2) Photograph them.

3) Send the digital image to ladybug@cornell.edu, along with the time, date, location and habitat.

For more information on the project go to the project's website.  Among other things, the site has this to say about the bugs:

     "Besides being incredibly cool and charismatic, ladybugs are also essential predators in both farms and forests that keep us from being overrun with pests (like aphids and mealybugs). In many areas the native ladybugs are being replaced by exotic ones."

As for the nine-spotted ladybug, it was common until the mid-1980s. New York's state insect, it's scientific name is Coccinella novemnotata. Scientists simply call it C-9.

-- Steve Padilla

Photo: Cornell University Department of Entomology

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