Is there a sweeter insect than the Ladybird? Not that we can think of, that’s for sure. Even the name perfectly conjures up a brightly coloured little shell shuffling along fence posts and beetling about in your garden.

The Details

There are around 46 traditional species of ladybird here in the UK, ranging in colour from brown to yellow, black to red, and ranging in spots from two to a whopping twenty-four. The largest British variety is the Eyed Ladybird at 8.5mm, and the smallest is the teeny-tiny 16-spot Ladybird at just 3mm.

Ladybirds get around and inhabit all sorts of locations from your garden, to the park, and plenty of other places beside. Some species can be found on wetland, some in heather, some in conifers, and the 5-spot can even be found living in unstable river shingle of all things.

What does connect all these different species though, is there love of aphids as the perfect food – and that is why gardeners the length and breadth of the country just love ladybirds.

Gardeners

Ladybirds come in top of the charts when it comes to beneficial insects. They not only munch their way through the highly damaging aphid population but their presence is also a strong indicator of your garden’s health. Believe it or not, these little bugs can eat as many as fifty aphids in one day!

Ladybird babies (nymphs) look nothing like their adult form – in fact, they rather resemble tiny crocs and are usually black in colour. These tiny babies can eat an incredible five hundred aphids in the two to three weeks before they become adults. 

The ladybird life cycle lasts just five weeks so make the most of them while you can.

Fortunately for us, they are prolific reproducers.

Enemy and Threats

Though we find their spotted red and black shells adorable, ladybirds are actually trying to act tough with such markings. Despite their warning colours, there are still plenty of critters out there who want to eat our ladybird friends including birds, spiders, wasps and even some fungi.

Perhaps the biggest threat to our native species however is the Harlequin Ladybird.

Harlequins are incredibly invasive – in fact, the most invasive ladybird in the world. They now dominate in America and most of North West Europe – it is highly likely the UK will be next. 

How We Can Help

Monitoring. Get out there and get hunting for ladybirds. There is a national ladybird survey being undertaken as we speak and they are keen for as many people as possible to get out there and spot ladybirds.

You can search by eye – remembering that ladybirds like to keep hidden in leaves, crevices and in bark. Sweeping nets are another method, as is the ominously named beating – details of both these methods can be found on the survey website.

Ladybirds are pretty easy to attract. Plant plenty of nectar and pollen-rich plants, avoid chemicals, and lure our spotted friends in with aphid-prone plants like anything from the brassica family and the wonderful nasturtium.