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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Study to follow sightings of Ladybirds

Published 26/07/2014 | 00:00

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The 7-spot Ladybird

Every summer populations vary among butterflies, bumblebees, house flies, wasps and other insects and while numbers may spike or crash in any particular year it is the long-term trend that is more interesting and is ultimately more important.

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Take ladybirds, for example; how are they doing?

Ladybirds have separate sexes. Males and females mated during May. Females laid eggs and the larvae that emerged are now feeding on greenfly and other aphids. The larvae will pupate and if the insects have an exceptionally successful breeding season we may have a plague of ladybirds in August as the new adults emerge from the pupae.

Everyone knows these colourful little beetles with the domed backs. And that being the case, the Irish Wildlife Trust has organised a national ladybird survey and requests your help by inviting you to participate in its quest to learn more about the numbers and distribution of these little beetles.

With funding from Fota Wildlife Park, the 2014 ladybird survey is organised by the Irish Wildlife Trust in partnership with National Museums Northern Ireland and Biology.ie.

Eighteen species of ladybird have been recorded in Ireland and while some of them are specialists and are very rare the 7-Spot Ladybird is a generalist that is so very common and widespread that everyone knows the little orange-red beetle with the three, smallish black spots on each wing case and one big black smudge straddling both wing cases.

The Harlequin Ladybird is the latest addition to our ladybird fauna and since there are fears that this invasive alien from Asia may threaten our native species it is important that a national stocktake is done now before the Harlequin spreads any farther. Harlequins were first recorded here in 2009 and are a threat in that they compete with our natives for the same food and can breed three times each year whereas our all of our native species breed only once.

To submit your sighting of a ladybird, visit Paul Whelan's very user-friendly website at Biology.ie. There you will find a link to an identification chart for all the species that occur in this part of the world together with a guide to the 24 different colour variations in the Harlequin Ladybird.

The Irish Wildlife Trust has organised a number of workshops on ladybird identification. For information on these workshops or to ask a question about ladybirds or the survey, e-mail iwtladybirdsurvey@gmail.com or join the conversation on Ladybird Survey Facebook page.

Wexford People

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