How to save our ladybirds is really the same, as how to save any other garden wildlife. Leave well alone, garden organically and encourage natural habitats (that’s naturally, not by purchasing endless ‘products for ladybirds’).
Ladybirds are simply ‘pretty bugs’ that help organic gardeners by eating up to 50 aphids (greenfly or blackfly) a day. They don’t always have spots, though all can secrete a nasty-tasting oily liquid from joints in their legs – a reminder to natural predators (birds, frogs, dragonflies, spiders, wasps) not to try again. Baby ladybirds look like ‘baby alligators’ and are found underside of leaves. Leave them alone, and in 2 weeks or so, they will shed and become ladybirds, happily munching away.
Harlequin ladybirds are an invasive species that that can eat other ladybirds, but harming them will not make much difference (they also look very similar, so you could accidentally harm a native ladybird – and the empaths among us don’t like harming any creature, invasive or not). Experts suggest the best thing is to leave alone, and send sightings to UK Ladybird Survey
How to Save Our Ladybirds
- Securely dispose of all garden chemicals and read up on organic lawns, organic food (this post has tips on no-dig gardening, which protects ladybirds, earthworms and stag beetles), organic herbs and organic flowers.
- Ladybirds like flat-topped flowers (good landing pads) like yarrow, fennel, dill and angelica. And also calendula & marigolds. See make your garden safe for pets, to know toxic plants (and mulch) to avoid.
- Use safe humane ways to deter slugs & snails over lethal slug pellets.
- Don’t cut back old stems until spring, as ladybirds like to hibernate in them. They also like to lay their eggs in stinging nettles.
- If you find a ladybird in your house, gently encourage it into a box or jar, then place under a hedge or similar sheltered area.
- Read Ladybirds: The RSPB Spotlight Series. This is by our top ladybird expert Richard Comont, who focuses on the 26 species resident in the UK. He includes tips on conservation, suggesting the main habitats needed for ladybirds are shingle river banks, heathland and conifers (that aren’t Leylandii).