September is the time of year in the garden when preparations are made for winter. Ladybirds are important to gardeners and during the year, they help by predating on plant pests such as aphids. Ladybirds hibernate in gardens and therefore it is important that they have help to survive the winter.
There are a number of ways that we can help them, firstly by limiting the use of chemicals. Ladybirds are not alone in that they prefer chemical free habitats. Secondly, they also need homes for the winter. These homes include log piles, piles of leaves or insect houses. Insect houses can be bought from garden centres of they can be easily made. They can be made by tying twigs together and placing in a sheltered spot or by cutting off the top of a plastic bottle and leaving ridged cardboard from boxes or twigs inside. Ladybirds like to find areas to hide in and to be protected from the winter rain and temperatures. Insect houses are therefore important for their survival.
Fota Wildlife Park are working with UCC to study ladybirds in Ireland. Further information is available on www.biology.ie as well as identification sheets. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
(Pictured is a harmonia axyridis f. spectabilis ladybird, the common name is the Harlequin ladybird)