13 Nov 2009

It's a Bug's Life…


(Harlequin Ladybird:  Harmonia axyridis succinea)

There's been a lot of fuss over the summer about ladybirds - both our native UK ladybirds (Coccinellids) and the Harlequin ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) aka Multicoloured Asian Ladybirds.  The Harleys are causing concern over here because they're born survivors and will eat the eggs of UK ladybirds and butterflies when hungry - but their first choice from the menu is aphids. 


(A few more Harlequin ladybirds caught on camera.)

I've been seeing quite a few Harleys in the last few weeks (one had managed to get through my third floor windows!) - and I wondered, "Where do ladybirds go in winter?" (if not to my kitchen).

A tiny bit of googling reveals that they hibernate.  (I know, I should have guessed.)  Their food supply dries up with the colder November temperatures and they start to look for somewhere to bed down, preferably together, sometimes hundreds together!  If you find any indoors, it's kindest to put them back outside as the warmth indoors will wake them up too early (normally they sleep until March) and they'll starve for lack of food (they search out early aphids prior to mating).  They like to shelter under a bit of tree bark or a few leaves, as long as it's frost free and where they're less likely to be attacked by predators (usually sparrows).

Or, using only two recycled items, you can make a lovely little Spotty Lodgers Hotel.  One which presumably sparrows can't get in to.  Find instructions here on the UK Safari website.   You only need an empty 2 litre drinks bottle and a piece of corrugated cardboard to roll up loosely inside it.  Easy Peasy.  (Here's a sneak preview, click link above for full instructions.)


But, if you do this, please don't put our natural ladybirds in with the Harleys.  It could get nasty.   And don't forget, as you're (hopefully) depriving the food chain of a few ladybirds, it's helpful to put out some sunflower seeds or millet in a feeder for the sparrows.  (Using another cleaned, empty water bottle, the RSPB has an instructable for making a Recycled Bird Feeder here.)

1 comment:

  1. They had some great bug 'hotels' at Chelsea this year, I've been meaning to make one all year but never got round to it. Perhaps next year.

    ReplyDelete

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