Ladybirds

I have recently moved and am already so happy with where I am. Although I loved my flat, I am now in a house with a garden!

Well, it has an outdoor space. At the moment I’m not really sure that I can call it a garden because it’s just a patch of pebbles and some weeds really (even the flowers at the end are a gift from my sister). It isn’t really ours to renovate because it’s a rented house but I am not going to be able to stop myself making it as much as we can whilst changing nothing fundamental. For example, you can see that there’s nowhere for us to dig a border. Under the pebbles is a plastic coating which we can’t remove. However, I am determined to welcome some wildlife into this space. I have many plans for pots and troughs of bug, bee and butterfly friendly fauna, and my dad has wonderfully already started making us a bird-feeder.

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But I was very excited to start taming the shrub in the corner and find myself a ladybird (ladybug/lady beetle). Ladybirds are commonly known as the gardener’s friend because they are a natural way to control some of the pests that blight plants and crops, such as aphids.

Amazingly, their colour is more than just a beautiful and welcome addition to the garden. They release reflex blood (which is yellow) from their leg joints when they are attacked. This substance is toxic and so can help ensure the survival of future ladybirds by reminding a predatory that’s eaten one before of how badly that went! Ladybirds can apparently even play dead and release the reflex blood to protect themselves. This isn’t to say that all ladybirds are red – I’ve seen the yellow and orange varieties but some are actually grey, black or brown. These ladybirds are often mistaken for beetles. And some are even striped. All of the wonderful things ladybirds do but this re-imagining of their patterning is blowing my mind.

Lots of cultures believe that ladybirds are lucky (or that it is unlucky to harm one). There are even links between ladybirds and the Virgin Mary as regional variants of the bug’s name reflects. My favourites are little Messiah (I love the power that that gives to this tiny and wonderful thing) and Moses’s little cow.

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