This is ‘the ladybird tree’ .
It is a conifer of some kind . It was ‘ the Christmas tree’ , is now ‘the ladybird tree’ – ladybirds took up residence a while ago. They seemed to really like it. I read that ladybirds like conifers. There were many and varied ladybirds living amongst its branches- dinky little ladybirds of my childhood,various sizes, colours and spotty dotty configurations. So far so good.
We visited the ladybirds each day. My eldest (who is five ) liked to visit. We used to watch them. Sometimes the ladybirds were getting jiggy. Spring .
And then they were gone. All gone. No ladybirds. Fruitless pre-school morning visits to the ladybird tree .Sad Faces .Usurped by the inevitable distractions of toast cramming hand to mouth and mad- for- the door school dash.
Once they had all left I looked on the internet. I knew nothing of the lifecycle of the ladybird.Found a good site.Found a good chart , with pictures.The ladybirds had ‘done one’ .(scouse/liverpudlian slang for leaving the scene of the crime. I like the idea of scouse ladybirds.)Having copulated and strewn their eggs all around the shop.I didn’t like the idea that they may be dead. Some sites said that the adults laid the eggs and then died off.
Back at the ladybird tree,signs of life. Larvae . The excitement of it ! Just like the ones in the picture chart. Snap ! Childish joy of matching something to something else. Ladybirds ! Yay !
It was climbing up one of the leeks on the opposite side of the garden from the ladybird tree.It was HUGE. And strangely bulbous. Something not quite right about it. It was like a slightly trippy , theatrical take on a ladybird – like some big papier mache ladybird from MGM’s Wizard of Oz munchkinland or from Charlie’s Chocolate factory .
With a sinking feeling I remembered the site that I had come across when I had been surfing for ladybird info. It was www.harlequin-survey.org
To summarise,the Harlequin ladybird has begun to infiltrate our shores. It has come from Asia via Europe and in a nutshell it can and may destroy much, if not all, of our native ladybird population if left unchecked. It may destroy it all anyway. But the people at www.harlequin-survey.org are asking people to get in touch with them if you have any sightings as they are trying to map which areas harlequins are spreading to, and how quickly.
I contacted them and sent them a copy of this picture and received this reply : yes, it was a harlequin. Looking at the map on their site , there didn’t seem to be so many sightings in Wales . But they are here now. They do not recommend that people kill harlequin ladybirds if they see them . I could not bring myself to kill one anyway. Apparently they are trying to develop a pheremone to lure them. To what exactly I am not sure.The site will tell you more.www.harlequin-survey.org
Please try and check the site out if you can, and help with the survey if you see a harlequin ladybird on your travels.
To conclude : I didn’t know anything about ladybirds before they came to live in the garden. I hadn’t heard of harlequins ladybirds. I knew nothing of the risk that they potentially pose to our indiginous ladybird population.
A year ago I was too busy to look at ladybirds. I was busy packing plastic made in China ‘look at it and chuck it’ crap into polythene party bags for children that already had too much of everything anyway.But Life is short. I would rather spend the time looking at ladybirds.
This was the garden speaking to me. Not just about a garden anymore . It’s about all of it .Mother Earth. There is something bizarre about us having these little plots of land that we say that we ‘own’ , and we tend these to within an inch of their life but ignore all else outside of that boundary.
I am seeing things differently.