The Good Luck at UC Davis Picnic Day

Remember when San Francisco 49'ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk credited his spectacular 51-yard catch in the 2024 NFC championship game with the Detroit Lions to a ladybug (note that entomologists correctly call it a "lady beetle") landing on his shoe before the game?

Well, those attending the 110th annual UC Davis Picnic Day activities on Saturday, April 20 at Briggs Hall--home of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology--can also net some luck.

Children are encouraged to take home a couple of the beetles at the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program (UC IPM) booth in the courtyard of Briggs. (Adults can do so, too. Maybe they'll name their beetles "Brandon" and "Aiyuk.")

The ladybug is actually a beetle (Coleoptera), not a bug (Hemiptera). It's associated with good luck because it eats the aphids that try to destroy our crops. It can eat as many as 5000 aphids in its lifetime, scientists estimate.

"These beetles have become a cultural icon of sorts because of their appearance and their beneficial habits," writes UC Davis distinguished professor Lynn Kimsey, former director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology, in her insect fact sheet on lady beetles. "Both adults and larvae feed on aphids and other small, soft-bodied insects...They are ferocious predators on small insects." (See what the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program says about lady beetles.)

Ever seen a close-up shot of a lady beetle eating an aphid? The predator and the prey...

Ever seen a cellar spider snaring and eating a lady beetle? The predator and the becomes prey.

Ordinarily, the lady beetle's bright red coloration serves as a "warning" to predators. Plus, lady beetles are known to ooze a foul-tasting chemical that tastes so bad that predators leave them alone. This lady beetle engaged in "reflex bleeding," exuding an alkaloid toxin (which did not deter the predator). 

Lady beetles will be just a few of the bugs at Briggs Hall during UC Davis Picnic Day. You'll also see cockroach races, maggot art, and displays featuring ants, bees, walking sticks, mosquitoes, nematodes, butterflies, spiders, whip scorpions, and more.  Check out "bug" activities at Briggs Hall here.  UC Davis Picnic Day is free and family friendly.