Spotting the Lucky Ladybird
Ladybirds are great to have as buddies in your backyard. In many cultures they are considered so lucky that killing one will bring sadness and misfortune.
There are about 6000 species of ladybird in the world, with around 500 species in Australia. You might know ladybirds as ladybugs or ladybeetles, but whatever name you use they are the fantastic at keeping your garden healthy.
You might think of ladybirds as being red or orange with black spots, but some types of ladybirds don’t look like that at all. In fact some are all one colour, some are striped and some are even hairy!
Ladybirds are very common in gardens all around Australia. You may have seen them gathering together for a feast of aphids on your rose bushes, flying across your garden to check out your herbs or you may have even tried to get them to land on your hand for luck.
You can help look after Ladybirds in your Backyard
Ladybirds love to eat aphids, mites and scale insects that destroy a lot of common garden plants like roses, so they are great to have in your backyard.
Planting herbs like coriander, fennel and dill will help to attract ladybirds.
Ladybirds also like to live in well-watered gardens because they need to drink quite a lot. Some also enjoy the occasional treat of pollen or nectar.
It isn’t just adult ladybirds that are helpful. Ladybird larvae also grow strong by eating aphids, mites and scale insects. They look quite different to adult ladybirds, so keep an eye on any clumps of eggs or larvae you find near groups of ladybirds; you might see them grow up into beautiful ladybirds too.
Be a Backyard Buddy
Some ladybirds are the brightly coloured and spotty types you might have seen in children’s books or cartoons, but there are many different types of ladybirds.
If you think you have found a ladybird in your garden, you can identify it at the CSIRO’s Ladybirds of Australia website.
- Making a meal out of any aphids, scale insects or mites.
- Garden herbs like coriander, fennel and dill.
- Treats, especially pollen or nectar from locally native plants.
But they don't like:
- Insecticides. Any insecticides, even low toxic or environmentally friendly ones, are harmful to ladybirds and they destroy the ladybirds’ food sources. That means new ladybirds won’t have any reason to come to your garden.
- Being caught out in cold weather.
- Going without water or visiting very dry gardens.
Be a Buddy to Ladybirds
- Build a simple ladybird house in your garden so the ladybirds have somewhere warm and safe to shelter or lay eggs.
- Make your backyard like a ladybird paradise. Grow their favourite herbs near any plants that are being eaten by aphids, mites or scale insects. (A pot of coriander or dill is like a personal invitation for ladybirds to drop in.) You can even give ladybirds a tasty treat by mixing some honey with water and a little brewers yeast and spreading it around the garden.
- Start your own ladybird breeding program. Collect some ladybirds from your garden in a plastic container with small air holes in the lid. Give them plenty of plant cuttings covered with aphids for food. Keep a cotton wool ball soaked with water in the container so that they have plenty to drink. You can also buy ladybirds for you garden at Eco Organic Garden.
- Using insecticides or chemicals in your garden.
- Killing ladybirds, their larvae or their eggs.
- Watering your garden during the hottest part of the day. This means all of the water will have evaporated before the ladybirds have had enough to drink.
Don't be surprised if Ladybirds:
- Hang out together in big groups. Ladybirds keep warm by huddling together when the weather gets cold.
- Squirt out yellow goo. This is called “reflex blood”. It is part of the ladybird’s natural defence system because it is smelly and toxic for many of the ladybird’s potential predators. Don’t worry if you see them squirting reflex blood; it doesn’t harm the ladybird or you, just wash it off.
- Has faded spots. As a ladybird gets older its spots fade.
A few more Ladybirds facts
- A ladybird mum can lay up to 2,000 eggs in her lifetime.
- Ladybirds beat their wings up to 85 times per second when they fly.
- Ladybirds breathe through openings in the sides of their bodies.
- Click to find out more about the secret life of ladybirds and the different types you might find in a typical Australian backyard here.