The ladybug or ladybird as it is also known is in the genus Coccinellidae of the beetle family. There are literally thousands of species of ladybugs in the world, with over 400 in North America alone. Ladybugs usually range from 4 to 8 millimeters in length, but they can be as small as 1 millimeter or as big as 10 millimeters.
Ladybugs are generally considered to be beneficial insects, as they are voracious predators of aphids, mealy bugs, mites and scale which can be serious agricultural pests. Some farmers and gardeners purposely introduce ladybugs to their gardens to control populations of undesirable insects.
Along with other insects, ladybugs are sometimes carried on wind currents from the lower slopes of Mauna Kea all the way to the summit. These wind-carried creatures are known as Aeolian insects, and they are a major food source for the native wekiu bug which lives in the summit area of Mauna Kea. Aeolian insects are generally unable to survive for very long at higher elevations due to freezing temperatures, strong winds and extremely low humidity. Wekiu bugs come out of their homes between the rocks on the summit cinder cones and use their sharp straw-like mouth parts to pierce the exoskeleton of dead and dying Aeolian insects. The wekiu bugs get nourishment and moisture from sucking the juices out of their prey.
Occasionally ladybugs seem to be everywhere you look on Mauna Kea – at the Visitor Information Station, on the summit, inside the observatories and even inside the portable toilets up on the top of the mountain. Some people believe that to kill a ladybug will bring bad luck, and others think that if a ladybug lands on you it's a sign of good luck to come.