Ladybirds are pretty little bugs that help organic gardeners, as they eat up to 50 aphids (greenfly or blackfly) each day, so you don’t need chemicals and pesticides. No all have spots, though all ladybirds can secrete a nasty-tasting oily liquid from their leg joints, to keep predators (birds, frogs, dragonflies, spiders, wasps) away. Newborn ladybirds look like baby alligators, and are found on the underside of nettle and other leaves (leave them alone for a few weeks to transform into happy munching ladybirds).
You’ve likely heard of the invasive harlequin ladybirds (they sometimes eat other ladybirds). But as well as being very difficult to differentiate, harming them will not make much difference. Experts suggest to just leave them alone and send sightings to UK Ladybird Survey.
- To attract ladybirds to your garden, get rid of all chemicals and practice no-dig gardening methods, which will help them (like all worms and stag beetles) being accidentally spiked. Avoid slug pellets, and use safe humane ways to deter slugs & snails instead.
- Don’t cut back old stems until spring, as ladybirds like to hibernate in them (they like to lay their eggs in stinting nettles). They also like flat-topped flowers (good landing pads!) like yarrow, fennel, dill and angelica, along with calendula and marigolds. See how to make your garden safe for pets.
- If you find a ladybird in your house, gently encourage it into a box or jar, then place it under a hedge (or a similar sheltered area).
- Read Ladybirds: The RSPB Spotlight Series by England’s top ladybird expert Richard Comont. He focuses on the 26 resident species, with tisp on conservation, suggesting the main habitats needed for ladybiards (shingle river banks, heathland and conifers – that aren’t leylandii).