mini gardeners

inspiring gardening projects for children

A Little Bit of Biological Control

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ladybird as biological control

Temperatures must be rising because the ladybirds are waking up. We spotted a couple at the allotment yesterday and we have a few marching up the walls in the kitchen. They must have been overwintering indoors but I’m not sure exactly where.

We had good intentions to round them up and place them outside so they could find some food.

But then we noticed that our avocado plant was suffering from an aphid attack. So we popped four ladybirds onto the leaves and have been fascinated watching them ever since. 24 hours later and the plant is looking almost aphid-free.

One of the ladybirds has quite faded spots which we’ve never seen before. A quick spot of googling suggested that ladybird spots can fade with age so maybe it’s a pensioner. But a bit more googling stated this is a common myth, so who knows? Whatever the reason for the faded spots, it doesn’t seem to have affected the appetite for aphids.

And I’m not a ladybird expert but I think this one is a harlequin:

harlequin ladybird on an avocado plant

The identification was made mainly on the grounds that it’s significantly larger than the other ladybirds since harlequins can have huge variations in colour and spot patterns.

There’s a short but informative video from Bill Oddie on the dangers that harlequin ladybirds pose to our native UK ladybirds. You’ll be relieved to hear I’m putting my daughters on 24 hour watch to make sure the suspected harlequin doesn’t eat the other ladybirds when the aphids run out.


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