Don’t Wake Until Spring: Lessons from a Ladybug

Nature is life’s greatest teacher. Even inside the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden’s administrative offices, a traditional workspace with PCs, overhead fluorescent lighting and a pot of coffee always at the ready, learning nature’s lessons is unavoidable.

Early in December, Sabrina Heise, social media content coordinator, noticed what appeared to be an abundance of lifeless ladybugs in her office. Her workspace is located at the corner of the admin building and features an emergency exit through which the tiny insects occasionally find access inside.

Upon further inspection and at the last possible moment before the colorful critters were swept into oblivion, Heise noticed the slightest movement from one of the insects. She proceeded to investigate the ladybugs (Coccinellidae) and discovered that they were simply hibernating for the winter.

Ladybugs, actually not bugs at all, are closely related to beetles. There are over 6,000 known Coccinellidae species worldwide, differing greatly in size and color. They are typically a beneficial species preying on agricultural pests like aphids. During the cold months of winter, ladybugs prefer to hibernate under forest debris, in tall grassy areas and under tree bark.

However, they are also attracted to heat, making residential structures and office buildings an attractive alternative. They release pheromones communicating their location during hibernation, alerting others within the vicinity that they have located a safe space to occupy for the season.

Heise worked with the Zoo's reptile and amphibian department to create a makeshift ladybug sanctuary in her office where she keeps a watchful eye on the ladybugs and can easily release them back into the wild when they emerge from hibernation this spring.

Chase Harvick, public relations specialist

Photo credit: Charlesjsharp

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