Reddish Vale Country Park
Ladybirds are among the best known and best liked of Britains beetles because if their bright colours and the aphid eating habits of most species, although not all are predatory.
Ladybirds belong to the Coccinellida order of beatles, Britain has 42 members of this order although only 24 or these are true Ladybirds.
Ladybirds are often brightly coloured to ward off potential predators. This defence works because most predators associate bright colours (especially orange and black or yellow and black) with poison and other unpleasant properties. Most Ladybirds are poisonous to smaller predators, such as lizards and small birds; however, a human would have to eat several hundred Ladybirds before feeling any effects. Adult Ladybirds are able to reflex-bleed from their leg joints, releasing their oily yellow toxin with a strong repellant smell. This becomes quite obvious when Ladybirds are handled roughly.
Most Ladybirds are beneficial to gardeners. In the spring you can usually find Ladybirds in vegetable gardens feeding on aphids. As in many insects, Ladybirds hibernate during the winter. Ladybirds are usually found where aphids are, and they lay their eggs near their prey, to increase the likelihood the larvae will find the prey easily. In the main breeding season, May and June a female can lay more than 2000 small yellow eggs, providing she has plenty of aphids to feed on, she can also lay extra infertile eggs, these appear to provide a backup food source for the larvae when they hatch.
There is a new Laybird in Britain, ' The Harlquin Ladybird ', the most invasive ladybird on Earth. The Harlequin was introduced to North America in 1988, where it is now the most widespread Ladybird species on the continent. It has already invaded much of northwestern Europe, and arrived in Britain in summer 2004 and has spread rapidly. The Harlequin is a serious threat to Britain's Ladybirds.
Ladybirds have had many regional names (now mostly disused) such as the lady-cow, may- bug, golden-knop, golden-bugs (Suffolk); and variations on Bishop-Barnaby (Norfolk dialect) - (Barney, Burney) Barnabee, Burnabee, and the Bishop-that-burneth. It is thought the name 'Ladybird' comes from the middle ages when the colourful insects were known as the 'beetle of Our Lady'. They were named after the Virgin Mary because in early religious paintings she was often shown wearing a red cloak. The seven spots on the seven spotted ladybird symbolise seven joys and seven sorrows.
The Ladybird is immortalised in the popular childrens nursery rhyme Ladybird, Ladybird:
Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home,
our house is on fire and your children have gone,
All except one, and that's Little Anne,
For she has crept under the warming pan.
Many variants exist, including one that seems ancient (recounted in an 1851 publication):
Dowdy-cow, dowdy-cow, ride away heame,
Thy house is burnt, and thy bairns are tean,
And if thou means to save thy bairns,
Take thy wings and flee away!
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