The adult is highly variable in color and pattern. In the east, the elytra (hard shiny wing cases) range from orange to red, with many to no black spots. In the west, some individuals are black with two large red patches, and some are black with several large orange spots. Several other variations are shown here. In the east, the pronotum is usually white with four black spots, which range from small spots to large patches that may blend together to look like a black M (or W).
Their distinctive spots and attractive colors are meant to make them unappealing to predators. Ladybugs can secrete a fluid from joints in their legs which gives them a foul taste. Their coloring is likely a reminder to any animals that have tried to eat their kind before: "I taste awful." A threatened ladybug may both play dead and secrete the unappetizing substance to protect itself