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Ladybirds; a favourite of the British gardener

The life cycle of a Ladybird is similar to that of a butterfly, comprising a four stage process. A female ladybird lays up to fifteen eggs in a safe place, usually under a leaf and the journey towards life begins.

 

Larvae are hatched from the eggs and begin their life by searching for food, normally aphids and tiny insects. As the larvae grow, they enter the pupa phase and gain the appearance of a shrimp or maggot. They go into what looks like a deep sleep for three days but the larvae are changing form into a ladybird in a kind of metamorphosis. Finally, the process turns the larvae into an adult ladybird.

One of the commonest species is the Seven Spot Ladybird and unsurprisingly its main feature is that it does have seven spots. Their staple diets of aphids, which damage crops by feeding on plants, make this ladybird popular on farms.

An introduced species is the Orange Harlequin which was brought over from East Asia for controlling pests. This practice was banned in the early 2000s and the species is now spread throughout Britain.

One of the smallest species is the Fourteen Spot Ladybird, measuring just 4mm. Their numbers were thought to have dwindled but a recent survey of ladybirds showed this was not so. Their distinctive markings make them easy to spot despite their small size.

Another introduced species, the Black Harlequin makes up a quarter of the ladybird population, and is noted for its distinct darker color. Many people are surprised when they see this species, as they assume all ladybirds to be red.

Finally, the Two Spot Ladybird can be either red or black and have two spots of the alternate color. They are one of the largest ladybirds and make easy prey for predators because of their size and coloring; this species is most at risk from disappearing from UK ecosystems.



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