Saturday, April 24, 2010

Vegetarian Ladybirds


Ladybirds have a fine reputattion as greenfly-slayers, but what do they feed on in spring, before the aphid population explosion gets underway and animal food is hard to come by? This one - and scores like it - was feeding on the nectar of Alexanders Smyrnium olasatrum flowers. This is one of the commonest flowering plants along some parts of the Norfolk coast at this time of year, and must be a very welcome food resource for the large numbers of ladybirds that have recently emerged from hibernation.
Meanwhile, for those ladybirds for whom there was no conveniently blooming Alexanders, the pollen from silver birch catkins seemed to be an acceptable substitute. The dangly yellow catkins are male, the upright green catkins are female, and after pollination (which will be courtesy of the wind rather than the ladybirds) the female catkins will become spikes of tiny winged seeds that are favourite food for siskins and redpolls in winter.

12 comments:

  1. One day I will learn, you will Knock this stuff into my head. Don't ever stop, free education. can't be better. Thanks.

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  2. I've often wondered what they eat before the greenfly take over. Now I know. Cheers Phil.
    Love that first shot with the water droplets.

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  3. I am sure there are more ladybirds about now than there were at the peak of last year. I wondered what they were finding to sustain themselves. Here there are dozens on my blackcurrant bushes

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  4. I love ladybirds! Great shots, especially the first one.

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  5. Hi Adrian, I'm afraid I was one of those kids with something in a matchbox, always tugging at someone's sleeve to persuade them to take a look. I guess the blog is my digital matchbox...

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  6. Hi Keith, Apparently fungi form part of their diet too..

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  7. Hi John, they seem to have survived the winter very well down in Norfolk. We get a lot of those very small yellow and black ladybirds on our blackcurrants..

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  8. Thanks Gaby, it's good to see that they are quite plentiful this year - we've had some years when there have been very few around...

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  9. I love the ladybirds too! Last year we have had an invasion of them in Germany. Your bolg is absolutly interesting (Sorry for my awfull English). Greetings from Luzia.

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  10. Thanks for your kind comments Luzia..... and your English is 1000 times better than my understanding of German. We sometimes have ladybird invasions in Britain but usually they happen in late summer

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  11. There were three ladybirds each atop a small Peony bud and no aphids in sight. I wondered if they fed on the same nectar loved by ants. Thank you for the lovely post!

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  12. Hi Blackbird, I guess they might well have been attracted by that. I was looking at some sycamore buds today that were covered in sycamore aphids and some ladybirds had found them, so maybe their normal food supply is beginning to build up a bit. Thank you for your kind comments.

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