Despite their name, ladybugs are not actually bugs, and the "lady" in their name refers to the Virgin Mary. Ladybugs have two interesting defense mechanisms: their bright coloring and their blood. Over its lifetime, a ladybug is apt to eat up to 5,000 aphids, yet it also practices cannibalism in dire situations. Ladybug larvae look a lot like miniature alligators.
From an entomological perspective, ladybugs belong to the order Coleoptera, commonly referred to as beetles. For over 500 years, Europeans have referred to these creatures as ladybirds, whereas Americans call them ladybugs. Scientists generally prefer to use the name lady beetles.
While there are several stories as to how the ladybug earned its name, the most commonly accepted version involves farmers praying to the Blessed Lady, the Virgin Mary, during the Middle Ages as their crops became infested with pests. Shortly thereafter, the black and red beetles appeared and saved the farmer's crops by eating the pests, thus leading to the name lady beetles.
Ladybugs warn predators of their toxicity through aposematic coloration. Insect-feeding animals know to avoid black and red meals, thereby reducing the likelihood of ladybugs becoming a feast. When a ladybug feels threatened, however, it emits a toxic and offensive-smelling liquid from its knees that leaves the area beneath it stained in yellow. Predators become disgusted by the smell and the appearance of a sickly beetle, thus leaving the ladybug alone.