by Adam Pasco

It amazes me how ladybirds survive winter outside - hibernation is an extraordinary phenomenon.

Ladybird on euonymus leafIt amazes me how ladybirds survive winter outside - hibernation is an extraordinary phenomenon. To withstand winter as adults, ladybirds and other creatures must find suitable shelter, and they'll seek high and low to find it. I've tried to integrate some 'planned' piles of logs and prunings at the back of borders for these creatures, but they often have their own preferences for sheds and sheltered corners.

The untidy gardener in me can use all those piles of autumn leaves and debris around the garden as an excuse for providing shelter and hibernation hotels for wildlife. Who can argue with that? It's true that many insects and creepy crawlies, frogs, toads and other wildlife do need a place to shelter, and a pristine, tidy garden provides few opportunities. There simply aren't the hiding holes.

Now, you could be tempted to invest in a plush bug box or similar prefab home, and garden centre shelves can look something like wildlife estate agents with their tempting ranges. But nature has a way of bypassing your good intentions, making do with what it can find. I remember visiting Cambridge Botanic Garden at about this time a few years ago and watched a multitude of ladybirds (what is the collective noun for ladybirds?) emerging from the winter shelter of a thick clump of pampas grass. I'm not that partial to pampas, but have discovered ladybirds emerging from an evergreen euonymus in my garden.

This early population of adults is just the thing every gardener needs to keep greenfly in check. They'll be getting to work in their battle against my pests far sooner than any influx of ladybirds from abroad later in the year!

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Talkback: Ladybirds
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Gardeners' World Web User 23/04/2008 at 09:10

Leaving aside whether or not ladybirds are good or bad, there are nearly 30 different species in the UK. A good visual guide can be found here There is an 'orange' ladybird, Halyzia sedecimguttata, and several other pale pinky ones.

Also, common 7-spot and 2-spot ladybirds are pale straw yellow or orange when they emerge from the pupa. It takes hours for the deep red colour to appear and they get darker for several days.

Gardeners' World Web User 24/04/2008 at 21:42

Two years ago I gave up the struggle against garden pests and stopped using pesticides. I have noticed an increase in ladybirds and a decrease in garden pests. At first the pests seamed to be winning but now I don't lose as many plants or see as many pests. The garden has found its own balance and I am now enjoying a more relaxed form of gardening. If I find Greenfly on my Roses I know in 2 days they will be gone the Ladybirds will have done their work. The birds are keeping the slugs down. "Magic ain't it".

Gardeners' World Web User 25/04/2008 at 15:32

Useful observations, Margaret. Natural pest control is all about achieving a balance. Ladybirds and other predators (lacewings, hoverflies, etc) need food before they can eat and breed. In this case their food is your pests. Be patient and a natural balance can be achieved, as you have clearly demonstrated. I'd be the first to admit that this doesn't usually lead to 100 per cent pest eradication, but should reduce the problem significantly. Also, not every pest in your garden has a natural predator!

Gardeners' World Web User 30/04/2008 at 07:39

Is the collective noun for ladybirds a SPOT ?

Gardeners' World Web User 30/04/2008 at 16:39

I have Bug Boxes everywhere full of emerging Ladybirds and Lacewings - brilliant, a log pile left over winter has also proved to be a success. At the end of last year on one particular sunny afternoon, the back of the house was covered in Black Bugs with Red Spots, and Red Bugs with lots of black spots - I took some to the John Innes Center her in Norwich - they said they were a foreign breed who kill off our native ones. They are also nasty tasting so the birds leave them alone. My pond is currently moving with tadpoles - the Magpie is having a feast... Any suggestions how I can reduce the amount of Starlings which wipe out my bird feeders and bully the Finches. Sometimes just feel there is no point putting out good food to attract the finches - I have tried everything - can't help at being amazed at their intelligence and innovation. Got Squirrels, a Hawk, Woodpeckers along with all the normal Garden Birds - I feel very lucky.

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