The last in my mini-series about the aphid, ant, ladybird relationship, is the top predator, the ladybird, or ladybug if you are American. Ladybirds are beetles of the family coccinellidae. They are probably the most easily recognisable beetle thanks to their characteristic bright colouring.
Of the world’s 3500 species of ladybird, 46 live in Britain. Probably the most common is the seven-spot ladybird, coccinella 7-punctata.
May is the main month for ladybirds to mate.
In recent years, Britain has seen an influx of the Harlequin ladybird, harmonia axyridis. This large ladybird is considered to be a potential threat to indigenous species. It is a voracious hunter and its larvae will eat the larvae and pupae of other ladybirds. It may also mate with indigenous species.
The Harlequin is difficult to identify accurately because its colours vary so much. I think, however, that in the picture above, both ladybirds are harlequins, despite their very different appearances. One clue is that Harlequins usually have brown rather than black legs.
Ladybirds hibernate through the winter. Here a group of harlequins sleep huddled together.
Somewhere on my hard drive are images of ladybird larvae and pupae. When I find them, I will add them here. In the meantime, I leave you with the well-known nursery rhyme:
“Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home
Your house is on fire,
And your children are gone”.
No bugs tomorrow, I promise!