by Dr Chris Andrews
Visitor Experience Manager
RSPB Frampton Marsh
The days are getting longer, the weather is getting warmer (the other week aside, so much snow!).
And now is the time you might have a close encounter with one of our most recognisable animals, the ladybird.
As if from nowhere, our houses can seem to be invaded by these colourful insects. What is going on?
Well, first of all, what is a ladybird? There is not just one type, but a whole family of similar little beetles.
Forty-six different ones in the UK, to be precise. Some are the familiar red with seven black spots.
But others can be black with red spots.
Still others can be orange, yellow, brown, or even purple.
The number of spots can vary between none and 24, and despite the oft told tale do not show the ladybird’s age. Some ladybirds are very common, others are rather rare.
Their habits vary too. Some are peaceful herbivores, eating mildew and pollen. But most are voracious predators, hunting down and devouring aphids and other small bugs.
This endears them to gardeners who count them as their friend in their constant battle against blackfly and greenfly.
So what are they doing in your house? Well, over the winter when temperatures drop and their food disappears, ladybirds hibernate.
They like to get into a small enclosed space where the temperature is not going to drop too low.
As a result, they are drawn to buildings. Cracks in coving, spaces behind built-in furniture, little nooks and crannies around window frames are all great places to sleep.
Now the days are getting warmer again, the ladybirds are waking up.
But they often find it harder to get out of houses than it was to get in. Hence the sight of them blundering about at this time of year. So please do give them a helping hand. Let them out, to once more stand guard over your geraniums and protect your privet!