Ladybird, ladybug

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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.

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Of the world’s 3500 species of ladybird, 46 live in Britain. Probably the most common is the seven-spot ladybird, coccinella 7-punctata.

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Although many types of ladybird will eat other insects, their favourite meal is aphids, which they will hoover-up without being in the least deterred by ant-shepherds.

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May is the main month for ladybirds to mate.

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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.

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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.

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Ladybirds hibernate through the winter. Here a group of harlequins sleep huddled together.

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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”.

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No bugs tomorrow, I promise!

14 thoughts on “Ladybird, ladybug

  1. Love these critters – they remind me of old school Volkswagen beetles (you remember, waaay back when VWs really *did* look like bugs.)

    The cluster of hibernators is a great shot. Some of the others I feel that I may need to report to someone for pornographic content. Oh, wait, this is the Internet…..

    I for one will be sorry to see your bug series come to an end.

    • Thank you, Debbie. Your unflagging support is really lovely. I do sometimes wonder how I have managed to have enough shots of mating bugs to produce a separate Flickr set. Slightly disturbing perhaps ;). Never fear, there will be more bugs.

  2. Wonderful post Rachael, I for one could never tire of your bug shots πŸ™‚ Excellent photos, not sure I have seen the top one before?

  3. It’s such a shame that ladybird numbers are going down in the UK 😦 I remember I used to see so many of them, not so much anymore.

    These are stunning photos of them – love the shallow depth of field on them and the detail is incredible.

    • It’s not the lens that makes the photograph, it’s the photographer. I think you are busy proving that on your own blog πŸ™‚ You can always try one of the many alternatives, like extension tubes, dioptres, or reverse mounting your existing lens. Also, many of the shots I have posted here were taken with Sigma’s 50mm macro lens. A nice, and inexpensive lens. I recently read in a photo mag that anything less than 100mm was too short to take shots of bugs. What do they know, heh?

      • What do they know is right! You could print your own nature magazine with your shots! Thanks for the comments and tips Rachael I really appreciate it.

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