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Meet the Species: LadyBirds

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For those reading in Europe, as your eyes flicker over each of these words, a predator lurks much closer than you think. Hard shelled and armoured, its thick jaw is designed to slice through prey, its strong arms engulf them, driving them ever closer to their eventual doom.

Common across most woodlands and gardens, the seven spot ladybird is far from the usual image of a fearsome predator; yet this small, colourful insect can consume over sixty aphids a day, a fact which has led to their image as a friend of gardeners.

During the cold winter months the seven spot lady bird overwinters under fallen leaf litter or fallen trees. Many will perish in the bitter cold or wither away because they lack enough food stores. Yet those who survive will emerge more likely to breed.

As the spring sun begins to thaw out the icy landscapes across Europe, the first emergence’s of the seven spot population can be seen. Basking in the light for warmth; they often begin by consuming pollen, an alternative source of energy while their preferred prey – the aphids, are still scarce.

Once the summer has entered its full bloom, females lay around twenty, bright yellow oval shaped eggs which are attached in clutches near aphid colonies. A unique ability can be seen in the females of this species, who asses the quality of aphid colonises before depositing any eggs.

Those on the brink of collapse or populated by other deposited eggs will be avoided. Once the perfect location has been found she deposits her eggs and leaves. Soon the young emerge and carnage ensues as the larvae wreak havoc in the aphid communities, sucking the inside out of their prey or riding along their backs as they consume them alive.

Alexander S. Howson

Alexander S. Howson is a naturalist and nature writer.

Along with a heavy interest in Aquatics, birds and ecology. Alexander now directs a large deal of energy attempting to re-educate the public about aquatics and promoting the conservation of a range of wildlife species.

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