This Seven-spot Ladybird, our most common Ladybird species (numbers being boosted in sumer by migration from Europe), was very busy eating aphids on some Yarrow, in the garden yesterday. You can see it has slight damage to its wing-case (elytra) which means it carries one wing extended and allows us to see the way the wing-cases open and the wings extend when it flies. It didn’t seem to hinder this one feeding avidly on aphids, which, as you can see in the photo’s, try to get out of the way but the Ladybird can move quite fast when it needs to. They can eat 50 Aphids a day so are great pest controllers. They themselves have two protective characteristics- their red case is a warning that they don’t taste very nice, and if handled, they emit an oily yellow substance from their joints. This doesn’t always protect them from predation and in the past people even believed the yellow fluid was a pain-killer that could ease toothache, and ate them! Being common, they have some lovely local names, including ‘Dowdy Cows’ in Yorkshire, and ‘Bishy-Barny-Bees’ in parts of Norfolk. Conditions: Cloudy with some drizzle. Temperature: Max 19 Min 14 C.
The last couple of warm, bright days have brought many insects to the garden so I am spoiled for choice today but it has been encouraging to see several 7-spot Ladybirds, in fact a “loveliness” of them, the collective noun for ladybirds. For the last few years we have seen very few native-species ladybirds here, and the larger, more aggressive and non-native Harlequins, which only came to the UK in 2004, have dominated. Harlequins are a threat because they eat native species and also out-compete for food, although they eat many aphid and other pests just like out native species do. The last time we had a big influx of Ladybirds in this country was in the very hot summer of 1976 so maybe last years long, hot summer has boosted native numbers. If you can’t remember how to tell native species from Harlequins, native have black legs and Harlequins, which as their name implies come in many different colour and spot patterns, have brown legs (see photo’s). Conditions: Warm dry spell continues. Temperature: Max 13 Min 6C.
Seven-spot Ladybirds: These are supposed to be the most seen and widespread Ladybirds in the UK but this is the first and only one I’ve seen this year so far, and it was in the south. The same happened last year when, again, the only Ladybirds I saw in our garden in Sheffield were the Harlequin Ladybirds which devour native varieties like the 7-spot. Seven-spots are great for pest control and were introduced to North America for just that purpose. One Ladybird can eat 5,000 aphids in their short life-time. They are an important species to record, being a part of Nature’s Calendar and Springwatch/Woodland Trust species that we are asked to record when we first see them each year. Conditions: A still, warm day with cloud building and heavy rain due by midnight. Temperature: Max 20- Min 12c