It is not just any bug, but the native nine-spotted ladybug. And its reappearance is something of a relief, because it is the official New York State insect, even though the last recorded sighting of it in New York was 29 years ago.
Its absence had not gone completely unnoticed. There was a moment in 2006 when the State Assembly, realizing that the state insect had left the state, tried to replace it with a different species of ladybug, an attempt that fortunately fell victim to legislative inaction.
And now — after all these years — the state insect has been found. Like so many other New Yorkers, it was seen summering in Amagansett.
Peter Priolo, a volunteer participant in an effort called the Lost Ladybug Project, found the ladybug on July 30 in a patch of sunflowers during a group search he had organized.
“I didn’t realize it was a nine-spotted when I found it,” Mr. Priolo said. He was on his way to do an end-of-the-day ladybug tally, so, he said, “I put it in my jar and hurried back to meet with everybody.”
John Losey, the Cornell University entomologist who runs the project, said in an interview this week that not only was Mr. Priolo’s find a confirmed nine-spotted ladybug, but that it was also not a loner. Two weeks after the first find, Dr. Losey said, he collected enough ladybugs at the site to establish a colony that is now thriving and reproducing in his lab in Ithaca.
If the ladybugs are making a comeback, it is only beginning. The Lost Ladybug Project started surveys in 2000. As of 2006, only five nine-spotted ladybugs had been found in North America in the previous 10 years, none of them in the East. Then one lone ladybug was found in Arlington, Va. None had been found in the East since, and only 90 have been reported in North America.
It is the native species that is in trouble. Others, like Asian ladybugs, which were imported for pest control, are thriving in New York State and elsewhere, and can often be found gathering in or on houses in the fall. These Asian bugs and a species from Europe could be a reason for the decline of some native species, though Dr. Losey said the loss of farmland could be another reason.
After scientists at Cornell confirmed Mr. Priolo’s find, they went to the Amagansett farm in mid-August to lead a search that turned up about 20 more of the bugs. An area between rows of carrots and beans turned out to be a hot spot.
“We found a lot of them on cosmos and zinnias,” Dr. Losey said.
The farm is part of the 10,000-acre Peconic Land Trust in Amagansett, and it is organic. For ladybugs, Dr. Losey said, “you couldn’t design a better place.”
Dr. Losey wants to find out if it makes sense to reintroduce this strain of the ladybug in other areas. And he expects volunteers to be back out in the field when ladybug season starts again in the spring.
Now, he said, “we need to find out more places where it’s thriving.”