A Good Year for Ladybirds

07:55 Thursday 29th March 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: As the sun has come out, another little creature seems to have appeared in rather high numbers. Some of us here at BBC Radio Cambridgeshire have noticed that ladybirds are everywhere at the moment. How come? Sarah Henshall is a conservation officer for Buglife, the invertebrate conservation trust, which is based right here in Cambridgeshire. Morning.
SARAH HENSHALL: Good morning.
PAUL STAINTON: I haven’t seen millions of ladybirds. Have we got loads and loads and loads?
SARAH HENSHALL: Well we are seeing a few more than usual, but I think the first important thing to point out is that last year was a very very good year for ladybirds. There were lots of aphids around, and that’s what they feed on. So they did particularly well. So there were lots more of them going into hibernation than before, and they were all very well fed, so there’s a greater survival rate over the winter. Now this is the normal time of year that you start seeing ladybirds about, so people do notice them. There are a few more than usual, because of the high numbers, but they’re all basically coming out of hibernation at the moment, and then, in the next month or so, they’re going to be looking for mates, and they’re going to be breeding.
PAUL STAINTON: They’re a good thing ladybirds though, aren’t they, because they get rid of all the nasty pesty things, don’t they?
SARAH HENSHALL: Yes they are. They’re a great thing to have in the garden, a real gardener’s friend, because, as I say, their main prey is aphids, or greenfly. So that’s, as a gardener most of you will know, they’re a bit of a pest species. So having ladybirds in the garden is a good thing.
PAUL STAINTON: Right. Ok. So how do we encourage them then?
SARAH HENSHALL: Ladybirds love gardens that have got lots of different plants in them. Basically what they need is, if you have lots of different plants, particularly fruits and vegetables, that’s going to attract the greenfly. And also lots of trees and bushes, they’ll attract greenfly and aphids as well. So as long as you’ve got a variety of nice plants in the garden, that’ll be great for ladybirds. And then, where they tend to overwinter is in dead plant stems and in dead plant tussocks. So it’s really important not to be too over tidy in your garden. Make sure you leave some habitats for them to hibernate in over the winter.
PAUL STAINTON: Well that’s a good excuse for not tidying up, isn’t it?
SARAH HENSHALL:YES, don’t be too tidy in the garden, and it’ll be a good garden for wildlife.
PAUL STAINTON: Good stuff. Sarah, thank you for that this morning. Sarah Henshall, conservation officer for Buglife, saying how we need ladybirds in the garden, and how we encourage them.