Growing for good #ululagrows – Ladybirds: A gardener’s best friend 🐞

LADYBIRD – Seven-spot ladybird, Coccinella septempunctata

Some creatures feel so harmless, gentle and beautiful that it’s impossible not to love them, and ladybirds definitely fit into that category. On a sunny day, with your little ones, grab your MOGLi magnifying glass, park yourself amongst the shrubs and watch for these magnificent beetles to appear!

We spotted this seven-spot ladybird hiding amongst the leaves of the Anthemis tinctoria ‘sauce hollandaise’

Amazingly, there are almost 5,000 different species of ladybirds in the world! Much loved, these little beetles are also known as ladybugs, and in many cultures, they’re considered good luck. They come in many different colours and patterns, but the most familiar of the UK’s 40 different Ladybirds is the seven-spot ladybird, which has a shiny, red-and-black body and are happy in many different habitats, including grasslands, forests, cities, suburbs and along rivers too.

Most people like ladybirds because they are pretty, graceful and harmless to humans. But farmers and gardeners love them because they eat aphids and other plant-eating pests. During spring and summer, when they are most active, these incredible insects can be seen fluttering around or walking on the leaves of plants searching for food – in its year-long life, a single seven-spot ladybird can enjoy more than 5000 aphids!

The ladybird’s bright colours act as an important defence mechanism, warning animals they’d better not eat them! When threatened, the bugs secrete an oily, yukky, yellow fluid from joints in their legs – and their colouring acts a reminder to any peckish predators who’ve eaten their kind before that they taste disgusting! These brilliant beetles have another trick to avoid danger, too – remain still and pretend to be dead. Birds are ladybirds’ main predators, but they also fall victim to frogs, wasps, spiders and dragonflies.

How to identify

Most ladybirds have oval, dome-shaped bodies with six short legs. Depending on the species, they can have spots, stripes or no markings at all. Seven-spotted ladybirds are red (or sometimes orange) with three spots on each side and one in the middle. Their head is black with white patches on either side. 

Ladybirds lay their eggs in clusters or rows on the underside of a leaf, usually where aphids have gathered. Larvae, which vary in shape and colour depending on the species, emerge in a few days. Seven-spot ladybird larvae are long, black and spiky-looking with orange or yellow spots – some say they look a bit like small alligators! Larvae grow quickly and shed their skin several times. When they reach full size, they attach to a leaf by their tail, and a ‘pupa’ is formed. In only a week or two later, the pupa becomes an adult ladybird, to feed for a few weeks before seeking a sheltered spot to hibernate.

During the winter adults hibernate in cracks, crevices and leaf litter and emerge in April to find a mate. They like to group together, too, and these hibernating colonies can sometimes contain thousands of ladybirds! Females lay eggs that hatch after about four days, depending on the temperature.

Take photos of your finds and share with us @ululaorganic and tag #UlulaGoesWild. Happy Bug-Hunting 🐞 x

 

Ladybird Ladybird

Lady-bird, Lady-bird, fly away home
the field mouse is gone to her nest
the daisies have shut up their sleepy red eyes
and the birds and the bees are at rest
Lady-bird, Lady-bird, fly away home
the glow worm is lighting her lamp
the dew’s falling fast, and your fine speckled wings
will flag with the close clinging damp
Lady-bird, Lady-bird, fly away home
the fairy bells tinkle afar
make haste or they’ll catch you and harness you fast
with a cobweb to Oberon’s star.

Published in the Helen Ferris’s collection “Favourite Poems Old and New, Selected for boys and girls” from 1957

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