Aphids and Ladybirds

IPM Inquiry Lesson Set
Susan Courson, Clarion University, Emlenton, PA

Time: 3 class periods
Materials: One cup of ladybird beetles, Aphids, 3Petri dishes per group, hand lenses, small paintbrushes
Ladybird-aphid investigation sheet, resource articles (see links below)


The students have been previously introduced to the general concept of IPM and the Pyramid of Tactics. This lesson set will provide an opportunity for the students to develop skills of inquiry and apply IPM concepts to a realistic situation. This is a guided inquiry lesson.

Students will be able to:-
1. record observations of ladybird beetles and aphids
2. develop questions concerning the behavior of ladybird beetles and aphids that are testable by a classroom experimentation
3. develop an investigation
4. answer questions related to life cycles, classifications, and basic behaviors of ladybird beetles and aphids.
5. develop a personal IPM plan for implementation in their home or school

National Science Education Standards
Content Area A – Science as Inquiry
Identify questions and concepts that guide scientific investigation.

Design and conduct scientific investigations

Content Area C- The Interdependence of Organisms
Human beings live within the world’s ecosystems. Increasingly, humans modify ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption. Human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, atmospheric changes, and other factors is threatening global stability, and if not addressed, ecosystems will be irreversibly affected.

Related and Resource Websites

Article: Gotcha! Tiny lady beetles have a big biocontrol potential [Published March 1995, Agricultural Research, Vol. 43, No. 3, p4-8]

Ohio State University Extension Lady Beetle Fact Sheet
Cornell University Lady Beetle Fact Sheet
Ohio State University Aphid Fact Sheet



The purpose of this lesson is to discover misconceptions or naïve ideas held by the students in the area of biological tactics in IPM. Once the teacher is aware of the students’ various current knowledge and ideas, the subsequent lessons can be tailored to allow students an opportunity to adopt scientifically sound conceptions. The discussion should also increase the students’ interest in learning about IPM beneficials.

1. Engages the students in a discussion regarding biological forms of pest control. To start the discussion, ask students for examples from their experience, or from previous lessons. (Ex. Ladybird beetles and aphids, Bt and gypsy moths, Praying mantids)

Guide the discussion toward details of using beneficial insects. In groups, students list their ideas, and their questions. Keep this group list for later assessment purposes: what have you learned? List examples of students’ ideas on a board or overhead in three categories: What they know, what they think they know, and what they need to know more about in order to use this strategy. Narrow the discussion to focus on ladybugs and aphids. What do the students know, what do they want to know and how can they find out?

2. Separate the list of questions into Library research and Laboratory research. Save library research questions for lesson 3.

(Day 1 and 2)
3. Students make observations of aphids and ladybird beetles. They recognize questions that are testable with the given materials.
i. Provide each group of students with 3 plastic Petri dishes: one with a few aphids, one with 2 or 3 ladybird beetles, and one empty.
ii. Allow 10-15 minutes for observation of the insects – first each insect alone and then together. What are they doing?
iii. Each group lists 5 questions regarding the insects.

4. Share some of the questions as a class. Look at the lists and decide which are scientific and questionable. Possible questions that might arise are: How many aphids can a ladybird beetle eat before it is satiated? How long does it take a ladybird beetle to eat an aphid? Do ladybird beetles prefer smaller or larger aphids? How do ladybird beetles find the aphids? Does temperature have an effect on feeding behavior? Is ladybird beetle behavior affected by light or dark?

5. Students choose a question and design an experiment to test this question.

6. Students conduct experiment.

7. Students generate a claim that summarizes their results and explains/justifies to the class how they arrived at their claim from their data.

8. Divide students into “expert” groups of 3 to 5. Depending on the number of groups in your class, divide the articles into that many sections. At the discretion of the teacher, some paragraphs may be eliminated. Each expert group reads the article or section of an article assigned to it, and outlines the important concepts.

9. Reassemble the groups in a jigsaw procedure such that the new groups have one member of each expert group. Ask students to retrieve their library investigation question list. Pass our additional question sheets. Groups use their combined knowledge to answer questions. All group members are responsible for learning all the important concepts, with the help and coaching of the other group members.

Important concepts about ladybird beetles and aphids.
Sample questions are:
Is there a difference between a ladybird beetle and a ladybug?
List, in order, the general classification of the lady beetle, from Kingdom to Order.
What characteristics are used to place the ladybird beetle in its classification order?
Why is the ladybird beetle so important to farmers and gardeners?
How is the use of ladybird beetles a form of IPM?
Are ladybird beetles most commonly used as biocontrol agents to native or non-native species?
What pest is controlled and what crop benefits?
What are two ways that non-native species immigrate to the U.S.?
List at least three other biocontrol agents. What pest is controlled? What crop benefits?
Which ladybird beetle is commonly seen congregating on buildings and windows in the fall?
Briefly lay out the lifecycle of the ladybird beetle.
What is the favorite food of ladybird beetles?
Why do you think that scientists have found it necessary to import biocontrol species?
To what insect order does the aphid belong? What characteristics are used for classification? What is the lifecycle of an aphid? Explain how parthenogenesis is demonstrated by aphids. What is an aphid’s preferred food? (What part of the plant?)
Does an aphid have any defense mechanisms?

PA IPM website: http://paipm.cas.psu.edu/tactics.html
10. In groups, the students will outline a plan that follows IPM tactics to control an aphid problem in a greenhouse.
Specific information about this greenhouse:
a. There are an estimated 50aphids per plant
b. There are currently 5000 infested plants in the greenhouse.
c. The threshold has been exceeded.

11. Using what you have learned, what specific steps will you take to reduce the aphid problem?

12. Present students with the following individual homework assignment.
i. Ask students to choose an insect that presents a personal problem for them.
ii. Use their library research skills to learn more about their insect.
a. What is the lifecycle of your insect?
b. What is the habitat of your insect?
c. Does your insect have any natural enemies?
d. Population estimates?

13. Following the strategies suggested in the PA IPM website, draft a plan to manage your insect.
a. Can you use any of the above information to develop a control plan for your pest?
b. What additional information do you need?
Stress that students should look for the most effective strategy that rids them of the pest, but has the least environmental health risks. Evaluate students on the thoroughness of their plan. Students can also be evaluated on the completion of the investigation report and information report.

Embedded Assessment


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

1996-2007, The University of Arizona
Last update: November 10, 2009
  Page Content: Rachel Hughes
Web Master: Travis Biazo