Where are the ladybirds?

Posted: Monday 20 August 2012
by Adam Pasco

Where have all the ladybirds gone? Perhaps they are yet to arrive, on the crest of a warm front from the Continent [...]

Close-up of a ladybird on plant foliage

In the battle against pests, organic gardeners hope that natural order will prevail. The theory goes that pesticides often kill both pests and predators, and even those chemicals targeted at just killing pests are in fact killing the very food that predators need to survive.

Looking round my garden at the weekend I've discovered greenfly on all manner of plants, from the stems of sweet peas being cut for the house to my roses. Blackfly are coating the flower stalks of my dahlias too. Yes, these pests are very much at home in the Pasco garden, but despite not using any pesticides at all I can't see any predators enjoying these delectable meals.

In fact, I can't recall seeing any ladybirds at all in my garden in recent months. Where have all the ladybirds gone? Perhaps they are yet to arrive, on the crest of a warm front from the Continent. Maybe the months of wet weather since April taken their toll, and ladybirds have paid the price.

Other insects appear quite at home. While sitting on my patio washing out plastic pots over the weekend I enjoyed watching peacock butterflies on the buddleia, cabbage whites serenading one another, and a friendly small blue butterfly sitting by my side.

My garden and greenhouse are alive with hoverflies – those tiny striped hovering insects that should never be confused for wasps. I plant annual flowers, like French marigolds, around my kitchen garden to attract hoverflies. The adults feed on their pollen and nectar, then mate and lay their eggs on neighbouring plants, where hoverfly larvae emerge to feed on aphids.

Spiders are quite at home too, their webs catching me across the face every morning when I walk through the arch to open up the greenhouse.

Even my gardening companion – the tamest robin in the world – is not being tempted by the greenfly. They look fat enough, but perhaps they don't taste very nice. I've never tried them myself!

So I'll continue waiting for the ladybirds to arrive, but as pesticides aren't an option will have to resort to finger and thumb to remove them. What better way to become a green-fingered gardener!

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Talkback: Where are the ladybirds?
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clogherhead 20/08/2012 at 14:25

on my allotment at newtowncross Drogheda

donutsmrs 20/08/2012 at 18:53

I am also infested with greenfly, and haven't seen any ladybirds either. My sweetpea have been covered in them and my runner beans covered in blackfly. I have sprayed with soapy water but to no avail, they just keep on coming. I would rather not have sweetpeas to pick than to spray them with pesticides.
If you get any ladybirds please send some my way.

Bookertoo 20/08/2012 at 20:20

In my garden?  We were almost overun with them earlier this year, and there are stilfl - gladly - a good number about.  Timmed off some branches of spring/summer flowering things and had to tap them carefully near the flower beds so as not to put ladybirds in the council garden bin.  I am in the east Midlands, and can only speak for our garden, but they are plentiful here. 

Adam Pasco 21/08/2012 at 10:46

Thanks for the comments. I'm in the East Midlands too, Bookertoo, in Peterborough. It sounds as if those early ladybirds could well have been ones that overwintered in your garden, and some have stayed around.

Perhaps the lesson here is NOT to tody-up and cut things back in the autumn, but leave dense cover for ladybirds (and other creatures) to hibernate in.

It stands to reason that if your garden is a 'desert', and devoid of food (pests) then you won't have much friendly wildlife around either.

But my garden isn't a desert, and I DO have plenty of pests!

HjakU 21/08/2012 at 11:17

Before the "summer" we had very wet weather, prior to this, here in North Lincs,, there were literally millions of ladybirds. So many ladybirds that you couldn't help but crush them under foot as you walked, (sad I know). Now their numbers have fallen and there is just the odd one or two. Therefore, weather conditions seem to be the main culprit for their deplition

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