As I write this, on 7 January, there are two 7-spots in our front porch, one much larger than the other (the smaller one presumably being a male). In as much as one can tell the mood of a ladybird, they both look rather bleary. What are they doing out and about in January? Usually I don’t see my first ladybird of the year in our garden till spring-time – 23 March in 2005, and 1 April in 2006.
My Collins ‘Complete British Insects’ states catgorically:
‘All British ladybirds pass the winter as dormant adults, often sleeping in large aggregations.’
Yet I have been seeing 7-spot ladybirds in the garden through October and into November, and on 17 December we had one in the house. All due to the unseasonably warm winter, I presume.
My fount of all wisdom on the subject of ladybirds is ecologist Paul Mabbott, who has a great website to help you identify them: http://www.ladybird-survey.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/ It’s thanks to him I know that male ladybirds are smaller than female ladybirds (who need to be larger to have space for their eggs).
It’s also thanks to him that I know what the 2 less common ladybirds were that I spotted in 2006. One was an 11-spot ladybird (Coccinella undecimpunctata), which I saw on a coastal walk in Northumberland in August. The other was an Adonis ladybird (Harmonia variegata), which landed on my left sleeve in our garden in September (so it was tricky to photograph as I only had one hand free!).
I have promised Paul a complete set of records of my ladybird sightings for 2006 (as he runs various ladybird surveys). I’ll post them here too, once I have collated them. Meanwhile, happy ladybird spotting to you too! And maybe you’d like to get involved in ladybird surveys where you are. Visit Paul Mabbott’s website (http://www.ladybird-survey.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/), or The UK Ladybird Survey (http://www.ladybird-survey.org/) to find out how.