According to the Ladybird Survey, there are 26 ‘easily recognisable’ ladybirds in the UK and in the past couple of weeks I have seen three of these species, plus the larva of another. Of these, one is a native species and two are subspecies of the invasive Harlequin ladybird. The larva I have not been able to identify for certain.
Like all the native ladybirds, it is generally a few mm smaller than any of the Harlequin varieties.
They are useful to have in the garden as my mum grows a lot of vegetables and they eat most of the aphids. There are definitely fewer ladybirds here in Norfolk compared to Cheshire, where I used to live. This could be to do with Norfolk having a lot lower rainfall.
I sometime have a look around the garden once it gets dark to see what changes and this is a photo of a 7-spot ladybird I saw at night:
The lighting on this photo is terrible because of the little torch I was using, but what I like about it is that it captures the little bug which is sitting on the ladybird. I have no idea what it is, but it looks like it could be feeding off it somehow, although I cannot imagine it being able to get through the wing casing.
The Harlequin species are bigger and more common in my garden. I don’t particularly mind them – they might be an invasive species, but it is not as if they are a completely different insect. For instance, invasive parakeet species in the UK compete with natural pigeons, which are two very distinct species so I can see why people would be concenred. But here, it seems to be two very similar bugs competing against each other for the same niche in the ecosystem. Not that I’m advocating species extinction or anything(!) but perhaps there are bigger concerns when it comes to invasive wildlife.
I always think that Harlequins have a shinier shell and in the succinea you can sort of see my reflection as I take the photo. They do look bulkier and less petit than the natural species, which in some ways makes them lose the appeal which perhaps is what makes them so popular as an insect.
What I find completely bizarre about ladybirds is the larva which they produce. I found the larva of a ladybird on a recent garden safari and had someone from Flickr identify it for me.
I don’t understand why the larva is larger than the grown adult but clearly it benefits in some way. For some people, this would definitely take away the appeal of the ladybird, as it makes it look a bit like any other squishy little bug. But I think it is just as appealing and I like this photo because I think it captures a guilty expression on it’s face as if to say ‘It wasn’t me!’.