Mariah Edwards took this photo near Tehachapi Mountain Park of a cluster of adult Convergent Lady Beetles (Hippodamia convergens), which of course are more commonly known as simply ladybugs.
Entomological purists don't really like this name, because the word "bug" or "true bug" specifically applies to an order of insects known as Hemiptera, which includes cicadas, aphids, leafhoppers, shield bugs and more — an estimated 50,000-plus species. But not including ladybugs, which are a type of beetle, not bug.
However, the word "bug" of course is also applied much more broadly by the general populace to refer to practically any arthropod, so. . ."ladybug" it is.
Convergent Lady Beetles derive their common name from the fact that adults gather in mountains and valleys, preferably close to a creek, and entered a period known as diapause, which can last for as long as nine months.
During diapause, the adults cluster en masse, waiting through the colder period of autumn and throughout the winter. When it rains or snows, they take refuge under fallen trees or vegetation, but they re-emerge on warmer days and you can spot them basking on exposed branches, pinecones or other surfaces like the ladybugs in this photo.
Once spring has fully arrived and the temperatures have warmed up enough, the lady beetles disperse from their mountain sanctuaries in search of aphids and other tiny insects to consume.
Gardening stores and nurseries sometimes sell small containers of ladybugs to release in your garden for aphid control. These are typically insects that have been gathered during winter in the California mountains. They often disperse from the original site where they are released, but it's nice to have them in the vicinity, even if they don't all stay in your yard.
NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.