Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spotting ladybugs

K
Euphorbias are now in full bloom, showing off their large trusses of chartreuse flowers inside the similarly coloured bracts, containing glistening drops of honey. Yesterday, I found this little guy having a sweet drink in the evening sun. The British and Australians call these kids traditional favourites for ladybirds, the Americans call them ladybugs, which is kind of cute too. Ladybird sounds a bit more romantic to me; I can't imagine that Lady Bird Johnson, a First Lady of the US in the 1960's would have called herself Lady Bug Johnson either...
K

Sadly, many foreign species of ladybirds, like the seven dotted ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) so common in Europe, and the Asian lady beetle above (Harmonia axyridies) have either been introduced in North-America or arrived by hitch-hiking with ships. For a long time, they've been considered as useful insects as they feed of aphids and other scale insects; the first alien lady beetle species was introduced already in the 1880s to try to combat the Cottony cushion scale in California. To this date, more than 170 lady beetle species have been introduced to North America. But in reality, these foreign invaders are now outcompeting native beetles, and altering the fauna in North America, just like introduced species tend to do. So in fact, in the picture above, instead of musing over a sweet little ladybird or ladybug, we are looking at a biological control agent wreacking havoc in the ecosystem...

To help the native nine spotted ladybug and other native ladybugs scientists need to have detailed information on which species are still out there and how many individuals are around. To do this, the entomologists at Cornell University launched the Lost Ladybug Project, where everybody can join in spotting these little creatures. So if you feel like making a difference in an easy way, look for ladybugs and send Cornell pictures of them on email. This is a great summer science project for children and adults, just check out the pages above for loads of information and fun things - in addition to getting to help ladybugs, all "spotters" get their photos and names published on the project pages.

6 comments:

Alice Joyce said...

Coming upon a ladybug in the garden is one of my greatest delights. And what an interesting, important project. Thank you for this information. Alice

Camellia said...

Well written post, and interesting as usual. i didn't know that just a slight different variety of the same bug could alter the fauna. And as usual, there are humans lurking in the background.

John's Arts & Crafts said...

Great Blog & Photos! New blog on the Hx. of the Ladybug: http://historyoftheladybug.blogspot.com/

Utblickaren said...

Att det finns så många olika variationer av nyckelpigor ändå!
Det låter som ett behjärtansvärt projekt om något.
/U

Karen said...

How did I not know that? You are so full of important and fascinating information, I commend you for posting about this and I will now be looking much more closely at the ladybugs(birds) in my garden to see how many spots they have!

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Very interesting. I'll be on the lookout for all the different varieties of ladybugs in my garden this summer. Thanks for the info.~~Dee