Ladybird adults are typically small, brightly coloured beetles with varying numbers of dark spots on their wing cases (elytra).
Larvae look very different, often being dark coloured and spiny, with a long tapered abdomen (last segment of the body) behind six prominent legs.
Ladybirds prey on a range of pests, including aphids, scale insects, mites, leafhoppers and caterpillars (where the eggs are eaten). Both larvae and adults are predators, but adults also eat pollen and nectar.
A few species of ladybirds are herbivorous, and thus can damage crops rather than protecting them. In Australia the most common such species is the 28 spotted ladybird, easily identified by the number of markings on its back.
Green peach aphid
Ladybirds are found throughout Australia in a wide range of natural habitats and human-modified environments. Adults are highly mobile and can move between habitats easily (e.g. between crops and adjacent vegetation) in response to prey availability.
In much of Australia, ladybirds hibernate during the colder parts of the year, so providing them with habitat in which to do this can help promote them. They like to hide under bark or mulch, so shelterbelts containing trees with peeling bark, or which drop plenty of leaves that form a thick mulch (like eucalypts) can be helpful. As adults can also feed on floral resources, providing flowering plants in field margins can help them to survive through periods when prey is limited.