In late October, I saw a sign that colder weather was in the offing. The leaves were falling steadily and piling up in the garden. I like to leave a layer of leaves there, but with so many trees, there is such a thing as too many leaves, so sometimes I remove some of the excess.

As I was tidying up some areas of the garden, I noticed the ladybugs congregating at the base of several plants. They do this each year, as they prepare to spend the winter under the leaf litter. When I see them, I make sure to leave an extra layer of leaves over them. When spring comes, I wait for them to come out of hiding and become active before doing much cleanup.

It’s not just the ladybugs who tough out the winter under there. Some butterflies who overwinter here as adults or caterpillars seek out this kind of cover too. So if you’re wanting more butterflies in the summer, please try not to sabotage this part of their life cycle by removing all the leaves.

Lady beetles, as they are properly known, are called by different names, depending on where you’re from. In the US, we call them ladybugs (even though they are not true bugs), while those in the UK use the term ladybirds. They are indeed beetles and the majority of the species are beneficial, as they love to dine on aphids, white flies, mealy bugs and scale insects.

Because they provide natural pest control, some people will order ladybugs to place in their gardens as a way of providing that service. But this often doesn’t work, as many of them fly away when they’re released, and find some other area in which to dine.

Ohio is home to many different species of native ladybugs, including the Convergent lady beetle, which is our official state insect. This species is reddish-orange in color and has 13 black spots (sometimes fewer). The US is home to nearly 400 different ladybug species.

We also have our share of exotic non-native lady beetles, and one in particular is pretty much not beloved by anyone. The Asian lady beetle loves to congregate on the south sides of homes in the fall and if they can find a way in, they’ll attempt to spend the winter in your home. You should remember though, that as much of a nuisance as they can be, they too will eat those garden pests.

There are superstitions surrounding ladybugs. Some consider them to bring good luck when they land on you, in the form of more patience and fewer burdens. It’s supposedly bad luck to kill ladybugs, so if they’re causing you problems inside, keep this in mind if you’re the superstitious type.

When a ladybug is disturbed or feels threatened, they will bleed hemolymph from their knees. It’s a yellow color, and maybe you’ve seen it. This hemolymph, which is what their blood is called, also doesn’t smell very good, which comes in handy when trying to repel its predators.

Perhaps the strangest habit that ladybugs possess involves cannibalism. Not all eggs that a female ladybug lays will be fertile. She does this so that her offspring will have a ready food source when they hatch. In addition, if food is in short supply, ladybugs will eat the soft-bodied ladybug larvae in order to survive.

In general, ladybugs are popular and most of us aren’t bothered by them. My gardens always have an abundance of ladybugs and I’m glad to see them.