Kildare's Wildlife Watch: The gardener’s helpful ladybird friend

With the Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: The gardener’s helpful ladybird friend

The 14 spot ladybird. Picture: Tristram Whyte

This week I spent some time browsing wildlife images, my colleague Tristram Whyte, a keen photographer, had taken during 2020 of wildlife he observed in the gardens of the Bog of Allen Nature Centre.

I usually try and choose for this article a wildlife species in season, and one that you might get the opportunity to observe in your local area over the coming week. Yet when I looked out the office window and saw the rain that had replaced the frost, I thought, why not choose a species that will remind us all that the current Covid-19 restrictions will end, and that spring is around the corner?

From Tristram’s photographic collection I chose the 14 spot ladybird (14 spontaí Bóín Dé as Gaeilge). This little common invertebrate is a gardener’s friend.

Similar to other ladybirds they feed on aphids, a wildlife species that can cause harm to our growing vegetables, fruits and flowers. In fact, it is estimated that a single ladybird can eat up to 5,000 aphids in its single year of life.

The name of this ladybird does describe one of the main identification features of this species — it having 14 black spots! The spots are rectangular in shape and, while you may first think of a ladybird as being red in colour, the 14 spot ladybird is actually yellow.

Its typical habitat (home) is gardens, woodlands and grasslands.

Next summer, the female will lay up to 40 eggs which will emerge as larvae before pupating to the adult phase over winter. To help protect themselves this ladybird excretes an orange liquid from their joints that is foul smelling, and when handled can stain our hands.

Today as we restrict our movements and protect ourselves from both Covid-19 and the winter weather outdoors, the 14 spot ladybird is doing the same, spending the winter hibernating.

This ladybird actually has an extended hibernation and we won’t get to observe it in our local community until May.

If you need help identifying any wild species contact me at the Bog of Allen Nature Centre on 045 860133 or email bogs@ipcc.ie.

More News

Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.

Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.