There are more than 5,000 species of ladybirds, 100 of which are based in Europe. The most common ladybirds are the two-spot ladybird and the larger seven-spot ladybird. Ladybirds come in all kinds of different colours; reds, yellows, orange, grey, black, brown and even pink.
These beautiful beetles that are often favourited by children playing in the garden, are generally considered one of the most useful insects. Perhaps surprisingly, ladybirds are the greatest allies to farmers and gardeners as they are nature’s own pest controllers, feeding on aphids and other insects. In fact, ladybirds are much more effective than at getting rid of your garden pests than any chemical pest controller. Therefore, allowing your garden to crawl with ladybirds is certainly not dangerous. If anything, it is extremely beneficial.
So, now that you know how useful ladybirds can be for your garden let’s get down to the facts!
The results of eating a good diet
The most commonly known ladybirds are the bright red, black spotted beetles you find illustrated in children’s books. You can also find these ladybirds in your garden. Their distinct bright colour and pattern not only makes them attractive visitors to the garden, but also helps to protect them by warning potential predators of their distastefulness. Scientific research conducted by Exeter and Liverpool Universities discovered that ladybirds that eat healthily early in life develop brighter colours than those that eat more sparsely. Therefore, those with bright red bodies have stronger poison defences than their paler counterparts. The benefit of being a brighter colour makes them easier to see, which is good for avoiding danger.
Adult Ladybirds Hibernate
During the winter months, ladybirds seem to completely disappear. As the days get shorter and the temperatures fall, a time of year most people dislike, ladybirds seek shelter in shaded areas such as; under leaves, in dense vegetation, under logs and other protected locations. Sometimes, thousands of ladybirds may gather in the same location, taking advantage of the collective warmth of a colony. Other ladybirds occasionally become residents of your home, sleeping in door frames, folds in curtains, in sheds and outhouses. Asian multi-coloured ladybirds, an invasive species in North America, have earned a reputation as home invaders. If you do happen to find a ladybird in your home, remember all of the good work they do around your garden in the summer months and help coax them gently into an aired jar which you can put in a sheltered place so that the ladybird can finish its sleep, uninterrupted, through the winter time. And you can have your home to yourself again.
Ladybirds practice cannibalism
What lengths would you go to survive? Would you eat your family member? A ladybird would. If food sources are scarce, ladybirds will do what they must to survive, even if that means eating each other. A hungry ladybird will make a meal out of any soft-bodied sibling it encounters. Eggs or pupae also provide good protein to a ladybird that has run out of aphids. Desperate times call for desperate measures, isn’t that how the saying goes? I don’t think I would want to put it into practice, however.
Let’s bust this myth once and for all. The spots on a ladybird’s back have nothing whatsoever to do with its age, as children are lead to believe from childhood through into adulthood. It may be fun to count them but a ladybird’s spots do not give you any indication of the little lady’s age. In some cases, though, you can determine the ladybird’s species by taking note of the number and position of those markings. For example, the seven-spotted lady beetle has seven black spots on its red back.
So, where did the name ladybird come from? It isn’t precisely known but there are multiple theories. One of the leading theories is that the name came about as a result of the ladybird’s bright red shell, which is not too dissimilar from the red cloak Mary is often pictured wearing in biblical paintings. An old European legend states that farmers, many hundred years ago, prayed to the Virgin Mary asking for help to save them from the pests devouring their crops and in return she sent a swarm of tiny beetles bearing her trademark coat to eat them.
Did you find this article to be an interesting read? I sure learnt a few things about ladybirds that I didn’t know. Did you ever count the spots on a ladybird’s back when you were a child? Let us know in the comments below!