A spot of summer fun: make your mark on ladybird maps

Press release 2011/09 - Issued by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Strictly embargoed until 00:01am GMT Thursday, 11 August 2011

 

Scientists are asking families for help this month by counting and photographing ladybirds they find in their gardens, parks and fields. The information that people collect will help to create detailed ladybird maps for the UK.

Several species of ladybird are being seen in particularly high numbers at the moment, including 7-spot, 14-spot and Harlequin, prompting the UK ladybird Survey to declare the next few weeks as the perfect time to get out and count these hidden gems.

Ladybird recording is an ideal, fun activity for children, parents and grandparents alike during the summer holidays and UK ladybirds are readily identifiable, requiring no specialist equipment or training. There are 47 different species in the UK and, although identifying them can be challenging, it is extremely rewarding. Ladybird recording is also very important in helping scientists to assess the effects of environmental change, such as the arrival of a new species, on biodiversity.

The survey scientists, who run the hugely popular UK Ladybird Survey website, are particularly interested in records of native ladybird species, the 7-spot, Adonis and 11-spot, all of which should be seen in high numbers during the month of August, as well as the invasive non-native Harlequin ladybird, which arrived in 2003 and has now spread across vast tracts of the UK countryside.

Dr Helen Roy, an ecologist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and who leads the UK Ladybird Survey, said, "This has been a particularly good year for some species of ladybirds, making this summer holiday an ideal opportunity for people to send in their sightings of ladybirds, preferably with a photograph, so we can keep track of the distribution of ladybirds. We really do need records from all corners of the UK, as some areas such as Scotland, Wales, Lincolnshire and parts of the South-west are surprisingly under-recorded."

A new atlas, Ladybirds (Coccinellidae) of Britain and Ireland, was published in June 2011 by the UK Ladybird Survey team. The survey team is now looking to further investigate trends and report again in 5 years. By filling in some of these gaps the team will create the most accurate picture possible for the next set of population and distribution maps.

Everyone can log on, find out more and submit their ladybird records via the Uk Ladybird Survey website. Feedback is provided on all photographs sent in.

Notes to Editors

Further information for journalists, including images, can be obtained from the CEH press office.

Images can be downloaded from Flickr

The UK Ladybird Survey website is available to visit.

Ladybird facts

Britain has 47 different species of native ladybird, which play a key role in our ecosystem.

Many ladybirds are voracious predators of crop and garden pest insects, particularly aphids.

In recent years a new ladybird arrival has been spotted in the UK. The Harlequin ladybird 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 north-western Europe, and arrived in Britain in summer 2004.

The public has played a key role in monitoring the invasion through the Harlequin Ladybird Survey, which was launched in 2005, and has now received more than 55,000 online records.

The harlequin can eat over 12,000 aphids in a year. Unfortunately, harlequins prey on more than just pest insects, and will eat non-pest and beneficial insects, including the larvae of other ladybirds.

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