The BBC Breathing Places campaign has launched its “Spot some ladybirds” activity as part of its summer of action in the International Year of Biodiversity, encouraging more than 10,000 primary and secondary schools across the UK to record the UK’s ladybird population. Breathing Places was set up in 2005 to encourage people to do just one thing to help nature on their doorstep.Harlequin ladybird: (c) Shutterstock

Results from the Breathing Places project will be provided to the UK Ladybird Survey, coordinated by Dr Helen Roy from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and colleagues from the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University.

Pupils will be encouraged to spend time looking for and recording sightings of ladybirds coupled with the opportunity to also undertake a Ladybird Parasite Survey monitoring parasitic flies in ladybird pupae.  Pupils will be asked to find and collect a ladybird pupa to observe how it develops and report their observations on-line.

"We are looking forward to receiving ladybird records from thousands of schools across the country - there will be fascinating discoveries in every school playground." 

Dr Helen Roy, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

Both activities will provide useful data to the UK Ladybird Survey and have been carefully designed by Dr Roy and her colleagues working with staff from the BBC and RSPB. In addition to helping map changes in distribution of ladybird populations over time, the new data will help researchers better understand the impact of invasive species, such as the harlequin ladybird, on native populations.  The Ladybird Parasite Survey will provide new insights into the prevalence of parasites in native ladybird species and how this compares with their prevalence in harlequin ladybirds.   

Participating schools will be sent BBC Breathing Places Ladybird Survey information packs. Innovative online educational resources can be downloaded from the BBC Breathing Places website in both English and Welsh, including illustrated guides, activity sheets, word games and even ladybird dominoes. Popular BBC programmes and websites such as Springwatch and Wild Days Out will promote the various ladybird activities encouraging a wider audience to take part.

Project leader Dr Helen Roy is excited by the opportunity to involve so many new people in biological recording, particularly school children. Dr Roy said, "We are looking forward to receiving ladybird records from thousands of schools across the country - there will be fascinating discoveries in every school playground."

Peter Brown of Anglia Ruskin University, who helps coordinate the UK Ladybird Survey, agrees that Breathing Places will provide a wonderful opportunity for children to appreciate ladybirds and their importance in the ecosystem.  He said, “Searching for the different species and finding out about their life cycle should be fun and a great introduction to insects."

The scientists are particularly excited by the Ladybird Parasite Survey which will provide a unique opportunity to assess the prevalence of a number of ladybird natural enemies. Dr Roy added, “There is so much we don't know about the ecology of these natural enemies and this survey will begin to address this.”

Initial results from the ladybird recording survey will be reported back to the BBC by 18th June. The Parasite Survey has a later reporting date.  Supporting materials for both surveys will be on the BBC Breathing Places website until December 2010. 

Additional information

The Breathing Places programme was set up in 2005 to encourage people to do one thing to help nature on their doorstep. Since then, the programme has grown to include over 450,000 people nationwide. The BBC picked the UK Ladybird Survey as a suitable topic to launch in the summer term of 2010 that would relate to the International Day of Biodiversity on 22 May. 2010 has been declared as International Year of Biodiversity by the United Nations.

Links

BBC Breathing Places Ladybird Survey (external link)

BBC Breathing Places Parasite Survey (external link)

UK Ladybird Survey (external link)

CEH’s Biodiversity Science Programme

Anglia Ruskin University (external link)

Cambridge University (external link)

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