Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ladybird: First Insect In Outer Space

I always wanted to share this compelling story about the first insect in outer space. At least, I could brag something about my favorite insect. Ladybirds were the first insect sent to outer space along with aphids. I have not got the chance to go up there, but they were lucky to be taken up by a group of scientists for a research purpose. It happened in July 1999 when four ladybirds and a group of aphids were taken on the space shuttle Leo. Basically, they were part of a student (US & Chile)-designed experiment whereby their effectiveness in controlling aphids in a zero gravity environment was investigated. The result was fruitful in which it indicated that ladybirds could successfully prey on aphids even in a zero gravity condition. This showed that ladybird could be a good biocontrol agent of agricultural pests in outer space if we are to establish our own earth-like environment in any parts of terrestrial planets in the future. You can read more on Ladybugs in Space, unfortunately, the site could not be accessed.

Zoom, zoom ladybugss.....

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ladybird Breeding and Rearing Techniques

I want to share on how to breed and rear ladybird (aphidophagous ladybird ) easily at home for study or observation purposes. The techniques are rather easy and suit for everyone (insect maniacs, enthusiasts, amateur entomologist or maybe the professional one lol). I have been practicing the method for some time and managed to produce up to three to four generations per time. Note that I came up with the technique based on the scientific experiments but I modified them according to my needs. I can say that the techniques can be good to produce generations of ladybirds in small quantity and suit for tropical climate since you can easily get aphid sources all year round in the wild whithout needing to rear them. The most crucial part of the technique is to get as many food supply (aphids generally) as you can for the adults and the larvae (baby ladybirds). So here are the following techniques:

A. Getting Eggs

The first step is to get the eggs. Usually I collect male and female ladybirds from the wild and keep them in a small vial together provided with ample food supply; of course the aphids. There are many sources to get the food, I recommend you to look for aphids on goosegrass (Eleusine indica); plenty with ragi aphid (the red small insects), on chili plants (look under the old and young leaves, the tip is if you see many ants crawling up and down; it indicates there is a presence of the aphid colony), on brinjal and ladyfingers (under the leaves), or on sugar cane (plenty of aphids). If you cannot find them on these plants, try the maize plant (on the leaves, flowers). However, if you cannot find these plants at all, try to look on Exora (bunga jarum). I feed my ladybirds usually with the aphids found on Exora since it is easy to obtain (the plants are planted around my house). If fail to do so, just try to find goosegrass ok! Abundance! Once you get the food, feed them continuously until they finally mate. Mating occurs for several hours up to 3 days consecutively. In fact I have observed the male kept mating the female for two days straight (No stopping)! The female will soon lay eggs maybe around one or two days later. Still, food is very crucial at this time.

B. Egg Transferring

After the female lays her eggs in the vial, I usually transfer them into a 10 cm * 10 cm plastic case with sub cases so that the eggs can be placed one by one in each sub case. This is because larva ladybird is cannibal and readily eats other eggs after hatching. I do this like 30 to 60 minutes after egg oviposition. The case then is sealed with a plastic wrapper. I normally use Chinese brush or watercolor brush to transfer the eggs each into the case. I dip the brush in bowl of water and then rub the eggs off with the wet brush slowly and gently. Do not be harsh as you can damage the eggs. Seal the case with a plastic wrapper and make some small holes on it. From my experience, most eggs will hatch after two or three days. So, prepare the food all the time. Usually after hatching, the larva sits on or nearby the egg case and sucks up eveything left from the egg. So , you can have this time around to get the food. After an hour or 1.5 hr (depends on the condition), if the larva does not get any food, it will soon die out of hunger. After a week of feeding, the larva will increase in size as you can observe the differences. Once it gets bigger, try to transfer it once more into a bigger vial, to provide it with a space to pupate. The pupa takes about 4 - 5 days to develop into an adult depends on the species.

C. Summary of Egg Collecting and Transferring

As you can see from the picture, the first step is to obtain the eggs, then the second step is to transfer the eggs into the plastic case using Chinese brush dipped in water. Finally, transfer the larva as it gets bigger into a bigger vial to provide space to pupate. After pupating, it takes 4 - 5 days to develop into an adult.

Happy Trying!


Cheeky Ladybirds....