Organism of the Month Oct 2008 – ladybird

Ladybirds are the enemy of your enemy. These helpful beetles and their 6-legged grubs eat greenfly, blackfly and the like (aphids) so it’s a very popular predatory friend of gardeners and farmers.

Oh, except the type of ladybirds that eats ladybirds… Harmonia axydris or the Harlequin Ladybird – this insect from east Asia is the subject of a special ladybird survey because it’s invading the British Isles rapidly. A beetle with a big menu, including butterfly eggs, scale bugs, pollen, nectar and fruit juices. They might not be altogether bad news, as they’re excellent aphid predators… but Harlequin Ladybirds are perhaps too voracious, and they’re racing ahead of many usual predators.

Seven-spot Ladybird

Seven-spot Ladybirds (picture left) and the Two-spot Ladybird are the best known in Britain, but there are lots more – 46 species in the UK. These members of the family Coccinellidae are iconic animals noted in many cultures… the 2-spot and 7-spot are found across the whole of the Palaeartic region.  (7-spot ladybirds have been introduced to North America too.) Stories, songs and poems carry tales of ladybirds. No wonder this well-loved insect is a mascot for the charity Buglife.

Among the kaleidoscopic variety of ladybirds there are also ‘dark forms’ with coloration patterns that baffle and bemuse. (More cool ladybird photos here and here.) The example photographed below is a dark type of 2-spot ladybird. And its green-eyed friend is some sort of fly… I don’t know what! They are both on a cherry tree leaf, the ladybird taking sugary sauce from the peduncle nectaries (those red lumps on the leaf stem).

And here’s a yellow one! The 22-Spot Ladybird.

Here’s a pupating ladybird, turning from grub into beetle. I reckon it’ll be a 7-spot.

copyright © 2008 Jason P Ball

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One Response to “Organism of the Month Oct 2008 – ladybird”

  1. thegardensmallholder Says:

    Great post! We stumbled across the Harlequin ladybird earlier this summer in our garden, and decided to try and learn a bit more about them. I think what spurred us on to do this was due to its large size…. we knew it was not one of our natives!

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