Anybody who has been out in their garden over this weekend of beautiful spring weather will probably have noticed quite how many ladybirds are waking up and sunning themselves. They have hibernated through the winter, in clusters, but they are spreading around once more.
The ones photographed here are the commonest UK species – the seven spot ladybird. Their scientific name is another example of a nice agreement between the latin and the common names; Coccinella 7-punctata – punctata meaning a point. Interestingly, the seven-spot ladybird can have between 0 and 9 spots but 7 is the most common.
Ladybirds are useful additions to anybody’s garden – their larvae are voracious predators and be very happy in the greenhouse devouring aphids and other small pests.
There are 46 different species of ladybird in the UK but you would recognise 26 of them as ladybirds with their distinctive shape and colouration. There are several online guides to the other species including an app for the iPhone. The FSC field sheets are a brilliant handy guide to many common species and habitats and their app includes the ladybird ID guide for free, with the option to buy more ID guides within the app. You can also use the CEH’s online ID tool or a simple sheet showing you the different species from the ladybird survey website.
Some species of ladybird are in decline in the UK and experts want to know how much of an impact the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) might be having on the native species. The harlequin is an invasive species from North America and is easily distinguishable from the natives. There are plenty of harlequins around Grantham, including these which woke up on the windowsill in our office. You can record sightings of harlequin ladybirds at this website and help to keep chart the spread of this species.
The UK ladybird survey also welcome records – if you are unsure of your ID, you can send them a digital photograph and this can be used by their experts to determine just which one you have. Their website, with links to recording forms, is here.