Monday, January 30, 2012

You Have Been Warned .....

This morning this seven-spot ladybird crawled out onto a foxglove leaf in our garden, near the bird table, and spent the whole day there. All day long it was surrounded by hungry blackbirds, hedge sparrows, chaffinches and starlings, all fossicking around in the undergrowth looking for something to eat - and the ladybird remained completely unmolested,which is, I suppose, testament to the deterrent effect of its warning colouration (or aposematism, as it's more scientifically termed). 


I was surprised that the ladyird had ventured out at all because the temperature has hovered around freezing all day, with intermittent sleet showers. I wondered whether it was dead so just before darkness fell I gave it a gentle prod, when it beetled off into the leylandii hedge. These much-maligned conifers provide an excellent overwintering site for insects like this.

17 comments:

  1. I have sometimes been surprised by the appearance of ladybirds in what I would have considered unsuitable weather conditions. Hardy little creatures.
    Fossicking - I confess it to be a new word to me. I had to look it up and it is a very apt description of birds searching the garden for food.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like the word 'fossicking' - it seems to fit the way that blackbirds rummage around in the undergrowth, chucking leaves from side to side in their search for food items...

      Delete
  2. A fine photo. I hope you will register the Ladybird with the Ladybird survey! You might like my pictures (and survey details) here.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lovely pictures Caroline - I'm particularly fond of ladybirds ...

      Delete
  3. "Overwintering site for insects" ... and your recent post about bugs emerging in spring from a bracket fungus ... how do common flies, bugs and creepie-crawlies actually survive throughout winter? I've always assumed that in fact they die but their eggs survive to hatch a new generation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Bob, various insects overwinter at all the diferent stages of their life cycle. Some spend their winter as eggs (some aphids do this), many moths and some butterflies overwinter as caterpillars that stop feeding in late autumn and resume in spring (a process called diapause), others overwinter as pupae (including many flies) and some as adults (e.g. small tortoiseshell butterflies and herald moths and lacewing flies). Many aquatic insects spend the winter in their larval stages (e.g. mayflies, dragonflies). Ivy-clad trees and walls are an important refuge for overwintering insects, in all these stages of development.

      Delete
    2. Thanks Phil ... the answer's always more varied and interesting than you initially think.

      Delete
  4. I found my first Harlequin ladybird yesterday- crawling around indoors. It seems this alien invader is making its way north....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chris, I haven't seen any harlequin ladybirds in my garden yet but they are in Durham - some turned up near DU Botanic Garden a couple of years ago http://cabinetofcuriosities-greenfingers.blogspot.com/search/label/harlequin%20ladybird but I didn't see any last year - I wonder if that severe winter knocked them back a bit?...

      Delete
  5. I haven't heard the word fossicking for ages, what a treat. I have a small colony of ladybirds on the ceiling of my landing, I hope they survive. It's good to know that their colouring stops them being preyed upon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had a bit of a ladybird population crash here a few years ago toffeeapple, but their numbers seem to have recovered well recently...

      Delete
  6. Always good to see these little fellers; a sign of good weather to come, I hope.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's hope so Keith - they're always welcome in our garden

      Delete
  7. I've been surprised how long ladybirds are prepared to sit in one place. Last spring, I thought one had emerged too early and died - but no, like yours, it was just . . . sitting there! Maybe they don't know where to go if they can't seen anything immediately available to eat and are hanging around in the hope of a passing aphid?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is interesting that they do that isn't it Lucy? I read somewhere that by sunbathing it helps them to get into breeding condition sooner, so they can get through two generations in a year. I seem to recall reading that the melanic mutants, with red spots on black wing cases,are commoner in areas with lower spring sunshine because their black wing cases warm up faster and allow them to reach breeding condition sooner...

      Delete
  8. I disturbed a ladybird overwintering on the underneath of my car's parcel shelf the other day. I put it in the garden, hope that was the right thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They're tough little critters snippa so the cold shouldn't be a problem for it - and it might even find something to eat in the garden...

      Delete