Ladybird life cycle

On a walk with Alice last weekend we spotted lots more harlequins following on from my last blog.

A few people have commented to me on the strangeness of the pupa, so thought I’d show off the stages of the cycle. The bushes along Hornsea’s park were brimming with ladybirds last weekend over the hedges and nettles.

The ladybird start off as little yellow eggs on leaves with groups of eggs laid together. As part of the beetle order they hatch out as a larvae over the Summer. Sometime known as nymphs in ladybirds. During this stage the beetle does much of it’s feeding and growing.

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The nymph then forms a pupa attached normally to the underside of leaves in late July or August.

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A now empty pupa.

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From the pupa hatches out a ladybird usually around August time. in many varieties of ladybirds they hatch out a lighter colour than they eventually end up and then darken over the first few days.

A newly emerged ladybird.

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From there the ladybird will overwinter. Then around May will mate to start the cycle again.

A whole host of ladybird spotted on my walk with Alice last weekend.

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Alice seemed happy to be out in the park too.

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Ladybird, ladybird fly away home.

Last week I reported finding a number of ladybird pupa on the leaves in my garden. I’ve been keeping an eye on them and yesterday I found several had emerged. 

The empty pupa

As I had suspected from the pupa they have all been harlequin ladybirds. Harlequins come in a variety of forms with spots and colours varying.

Harlequin’s are an invasive species out competing our native species of ladybird. They have a bigger apetite and can eat more aphids in a sitting than most UK native varieties. They also eat eggs of other ladybird species of moths and butterflies. 

Originally an Asian native they were introduced to the US to control aphid numbers. They spread quickly dominating similar species. It is thought they were accidently spread to the UK either transported within produce or blown across from mainland  Europe. Once here in 2004 they spread rapidly.

More info here: http://www.harlequin-survey.org

So it always comes with mixed feelings when I sight a harlequin. On the one hand, as a beetle lover, it’s good to see a variety of ladybird do well when many are not. I know they’ll eat many of the aphids in the garden. But on the other they may be doing well at the expense of other insects I like.

If sighted you can report them here so the spread can be monitored.

Some scientists have pushed that invasive species can be positive bringing variety that may be able to survive as mankind destroys our world. The theory had faults but worth considering.

Article here
A few more photos of the harlequins. Whether they are destructive or not they certainly have a beauty.