INVASION of the … LADYBIRDS!

On a sunny day about a week ago, I rashly decided to clean the french-windows and was in for a surprise!

Now the inside I do often as sitting in her bed, looking out from these, is the favourite position of the dog, so the insides get covered with doggy nose-prints, and even bark-bark splashes when excited by what she sees out there. However, with the sun shining, the rain-splashes and accumulated grime on the window outside was showing up badly – so I opened the windows …

The hinge was half-full of ladybirds (ladybugs if you’re USA) … and they started crawling up the frame almost immediately – so I knew they were alive!

Now my default reaction to any creature inside the house that shouldn’t be is to carefully get it to where it should be, and especially if a beneficial creature, can thrive. [I will admit that I’m not keen on clothes-moth survival inside the house] But my first reaction to ladybirds is that they are ‘GOOD THINGS’ and so require rescuing and putting where they can survive and thrive!

A little about ladybirds for those who have just admired and not thought about their life-cycle: Like all insects they under-go metamorphosis, spending some time as a larvae before pupating and emerging as the insect we recognise. In the case of the ladybird the eggs are laid in clusters on the underside of a leaf – somewhere near an infestation of aphids … because aphids are their main food (hence them being a ‘good thing’) Apparently, if there is not a huge abundance of food nearby the ladybird will lay a number of unfertilised eggs amongst the cluster to act as food in the first stage after hatching. {I learn something every day!}
Less than a week later they hatch and set about finding food. They look nothing like a ladybird, black or dark brown with spiky bits sticking out and a long shape – rather than round.
They go through four stages of growth, splitting out and growing a new skin, (instars), before sticking their tail to the underside of a leaf and pupating. About a week later the pupae, which is now large and rounded, splits and a pale ladybird pushes it’s way out.
After the wings have expanded and dried the wing-cases become their recognisable colouration, and spottiness, and it is ready to move off, to eat aphids or other small insects. Most then hibernate for the winter and only emerge to mate in the Spring. A few types, however, can have a number of generations in one year.

Now, though there are over 3,500 species of ladybird worldwide only 43 are considered native to the UK – and of those only 26 look like ladybirds! LIST HERE Our native ladybirds that we know and love, the 2 spot, 5 spot, 7 spot, 10, 11. 12,13, 14, 16, 18, 22 and 24 spot (didn’t know there were so many) as well as the striped, the eyed, the cream spot, and the kidney spot – amongst others. Download chart showing native ladybirds VS harlequins

So what of these in my window frame? Well, after I had carefully removed them to safety – this, as I said, being my default action – a little voice in my head said ‘wasn’t there something about a predator ladybird reaching our shores – one that eats the larvae of the native ladybirds?’

Little voices can often be right – and yes, a fuss was made back in 2004! when the first of these were spotted in the UK. They are an Asian ladybird, the Harlequin ladybird – as they come in so many shades and spot-levels – and were first introduced to America and then to some European countries to biologically control aphids. How to identify harlequins. They appear to have arrived in the UK just by accident, and like it here, multiplying exponentially! They are voracious eaters … unfortunately they also eat the eggs and larvae of other ladybirds, including our native ones, especially the two-spot ladybird that shares a liking for the same environments.

So, having rescued these and popped them into the greenhouse … I am now at a quandary as to what to do with the others.

Oh, yes, the others! Every sunny day more appear marching around the inside of my window. I’m not sure where these are hiding, but in a converted barn there are plenty of cracks in timbers that could offer a nice snug hiding place for ladybirds. Right now there’s 14!

It must have seemed a good idea at the time to use this biological control … When will start learning not to mess with nature?

but they are quite pretty – with their myriad shades and spots…

… and they do eat aphids …

… like I said, not sure what to do with the ones traipsing round the inside of my window now …

Any suggestions?

love to hear from you!

best – Ann

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