Ladybirds in your garden, how many?

As children most of us were very picky about what insects we liked. For me personally, earwigs, centipedes, spiders, and all sorts of flies (horseflies especially) scared the pants off me. Then there were the ladybirds, which for one reason or another always found favour with the younger me.

Why did I love ladybirds? My love for them sprung from something as simple as the fact that many of the storybooks I read at that time came from the Ladybird publishing house. A happy cartoon Ladybird adorned their covers, so it was not too large a leap for me to allow the real thing crawl up along my fingers.

Ladybird on a nettle, photo / pic / image.

Ladybird on a nettle, photo / pic / image.

Years later, and I now see more qualities than just their friendly look. I realise that the ladybirds in my garden act as natural pest control, feeding on aphids (greenfly), whiteflies, and mites. Depending on their size, ladybirds can consume anything from 1,000 to 5,000 aphids over their adult life.

But it is not just the adult ladybirds that help us gardeners. Female’s lay anything from twenty-five to fifty eggs each day, which hatch out as hungry larvae. These have the ability to pack away approximately fifty aphids each day of their young lives.

Ladybirds in your garden. How’s your garden fixed for a few ladybirds? They seem to be very scarce this summer for whatever reason. I reckon I have seen just three of the spotted fellows over the past few weeks, and come to think of it that may have been the same individual on each sighting.

It’s not just here in Co. Galway either, as gardeners in other counties have noticed their absence as well. One gardener from Co. Westmeath commented “is it just my garden or are the ladybirds extinct? Every year we had quite a few around our garden, but this year even though the influx of greenfly has been “humongous”, I have not seen one ladybird or their larvae around… what is going on?”

Another gardener from Co. Wexford remarked, “I’ve seen no ladybirds at all this year, but then pests and other insects seem to be in short supply too. Because of the cold winter I wonder?”

However I was buoyed by reports from one gardener from Maynooth in Co. Kildare who reportedly counted thirteen ladybirds in their garden one evening. Further good news came in from a gardener in North Dublin, near the phoenix park, who proudly boasted “Lots of Ladybirds in my Garden”.

Reasons for low ladybird numbers.
So why have some gardens been blessed with an abundance of ladybirds this year and others are lucky to see one? Well it could be any number of reasons, but the use of pesticide sprays does have a great bearing on whether ladybirds choose to visit your garden.

What I have noticed is that using any form of spray, organic or otherwise, reduces the chances of ladybirds coming into your garden. So, if you see a few greenfly about your lettuce, hold fire, don’t reach for the bug spray straight away. Ladybirds will come to your aid provided there are greenfly present and unpoisoned by pesticides.

Plants for ladybirds

Once ladybirds are in your garden it’s nice to keep them there. To allow them over-winter you must provide them with as many hibernation places as possible. Ladybirds have great community spirit, and can often be found hibernating together in old tree trunks and in hollow dead plant stems. But if you are scrupulous in your garden tidy-ups these sorts of hibernation sites will not be available to our spotted friends. Some folks will provide a specially built ladybird house for their garden visitors.

Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), photo / pic / image.

Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium), photo / pic / image.

I suggest that when it comes to tidying your garden each autumn that you leave many of your hollow stemmed plants uncut. If you absolutely have to cut them back then please stack these tubes in a reasonably dry sheltered spot for use as ladybird homes.

Around the allotment,vegetable and herb garden, examples of hollow stemmed plants would be the likes of fennel (Foeniculum), dill (Anethum), angelica, and lovage (Levisticum).

If you have a perennial garden nearby, examples would be masterwort (astrantia), Sea holly (Eryngium) and lupins.

If you’ve got none of the above, your site may actually play host to one weed that will allow ladybirds over-winter. It’s Heracleum also known as hogweed, which although invasive, is a real friend to the ladybird with its large hollow stems.

Now, who would have thought that a weed could be so helpful?

More debate about this topic on our forum, click Irish gardeners forum.

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2 Responses to “Ladybirds in your garden, how many?”

  1. mim scala Says:

    I live in rural Carlow and have not seen one ladybird this year, i do not use pestacides. I have not seen a cricket for years , what is happening to our favorite creatures, are crickets extinced from the south of Ireland ??

  2. James Kilkelly from Says:

    Other than the pesticides, I would like to grasp at the fact that our recent winter (colder than the last few) has had an effect on numbers.
    But that may be just grasping at straws.
    If you want to add you experiences in Carlow to the rest of the ladybird hunters around Ireland, then you can do so here mim………
    We may be able to map the rise and fall of numbers, then come up with a solid reason as to the lowered number.

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