FACT FRIDAY WEEK 8
Where do ladybirds go in winter?
As the weather starts to turn colder, you may see ladybirds huddled together in groups like these. In the UK, we have 46 species of ladybirds, and when winter comes, they protect themselves from the icy temperatures by a clever strategy we usually associate with bears or hedgehogs: hibernation.
Ladybirds are among a few insect species that actually survive winter by hibernating - or as it’s called for insects, diapause. They reduce their activity, heart rate and metabolism, just like mammals do. Often they hide together in groups that can number in the hundreds.
Their favourite places to hibernate are tucked away from dangerous predators, and differ depending on the species. Examples of hibernation places include rotting wood, under stones or leaf litter, and even inside our warm houses!
Ladybirds will go into hibernation around September or October, and won’t emerge again until the next April, when spring arrives once more. That means they have to endure roughly six months without a meal!
Whether or not they will survive their hibernation depends on how well they have been able to feed in the summer months leading up to it. Ladybirds are omnivores and will eat a mix of insects such as aphids, and also certain plants and leaves.
Unfortunately, an invasive species of ladybirds called Harlequins will even eat our own native ladybirds. If you want to help ladybirds hibernate, put some small logs in the corner of your garden! This will give them a cosy space for their hibernation.