Love your ladybirds
As the weather gradually warms up the landscape is also coming to life. One of the most ubiquitous, easily-identifiable species to spot at this time of year is ladybirds.
Ladybirds are loved by many of us for their bright cheerful markings. But those of us growing plants have even stronger reasons to love them. Ladybirds like to eat aphids and other crop-eating bugs, so ladybirds are great friends to the gardeners and farmers among us.
This week we share some fascinating ladybird facts, along with some ways to you can celebrate and support these happy-looking helpful creatures.
- Ladybirds have big appetites
We’ve already said how ladybirds are helpful to gardeners – but did you know how hungry they are? A ladybird can eat around 5000 aphids in a year! That’s a lot of plants saved.
- They come in lots of different colours
Most of us would think of a shiny red ladybird with black spots when asked to picture one. But ladybirds come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours, including black, orange and yellow. There are 46 different varieties in the UK. The Ladybird survey group has a useful ID chart.
- They have a secret superpower
When they are under attack ladybirds can release a toxic yellow goo from their leg joints. This won’t harm humans but tastes horrible to most predators, so it helps the ladybirds stay safe.
- Babies look a bit like aliens
Ladybird grubs don’t look anything like their glossy parents. They are long, black and hairy! And they shed their skins as they grow.
- They have a big winter sleepover
As the weather gets cooler in Autumn ladybirds find sheltered spots to hibernate. They often group together for added warmth. You might find hundreds of ladybirds all at the same mega sleepover.
If you want to keep with the ladybird mood after having a wander round and spotting a few, there are lots of craft possibilities! Red and black paint can transform anything round into a ladybird: a paper plate or a pebble for example. You can see lots of ladybird craft ideas here.
To attract and keep ladybirds in your garden, provide stones for them to shelter, and water to drink. Ladybirds are mostly carnivorous, so will be happy ridding you of aphids and other pests, but the do also enjoy pollen, so planting flowers will also encourage them to stay. Above all – don’t use pesticides! Most insecticides are likely to kills off the ladybirds as well as your pests. And you’re depriving the ladybirds of their food source.
Enjoy ladybird spotting this spring! Don’t forget to share any pictures with us!