|LADYBIRDS IN COOKHAM|
are 26 recognisable ladybirds in the UK, mostly distributed in the
southern half, and mostly named after the number of spots on their
shiny backs. They are members of the Coleoptera beetle family and
characterised by hard forewings and biting mouthparts. They undertake
a four-stage ecology, from egg to larva to pupa then adult. Adult
females can lay between several hundred and 4000 eggs during her short
life, the period from egg to adult being typically four to five weeks.
The larva look quite different to the adult stage. The creatures
over-winter as dormant adults, usually indoors somewhere, becoming
active again in early spring.
The species most probably found in our Cookham gardens is the 7-spot, which can survive outdoors in winter, and occupies low herbage in many settings. We also have lots of the 2-spot variety which can be found anywhere there are aphids to feed on. Good numbers of the 22-spot variety can be found and numbers of Pine Ladybird have been seen around the outskirts of Widbrook Common.
Of course, much public attention has been paid to the notorious Harlequin Ladybird, which has been found in the UK since 2004, brought in on the many imported plants from mainland Europe. This voracious beetle is not beyond eating other ladybird species if aphids are in short supply (I’ve seen one completely consume a 2-spot in just a couple of minutes, leaving not a trace of its fate!). It is bigger, fiercer and more resilient than the rest of the family and its numbers have exploded from a few hundred 3 years ago to groups of thousands of insects being found in 2007. And they have reached Cookham, with examples known from Broomhill, The Lea and Alleyns Lane.
But as to the general distribution of the insects mentioned above around the Cookhams, and the many other species not mentioned here, we are unsure what is out there. Why not help us by carrying out ‘Ladybird Forays’ this summer, in the garden and surrounding countryside, sending in your findings, or photographs if you are unsure which one you have found.
An excellent web site for further research is that of the UK Ladybird Survey (www.ladybird-survey.org) “