Beetles bite, bugs suck…

Beetles Bite and Bugs suck! Just one of little gems I learned on Sunday at the Ladybird Identification Workshop held in Fota Education Centre and hosted by the Cork branch of the Irish Wildlife Trust.

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Even though ladybirds are much loved by everyone (I would like to think so anyway!) there is very little research carried out on these wonderful little creatures so the Cork branch of Irish Wildlife Trust have teamed up with Biology.ie and put together an online survey to help identify what species are out there and more importantly where. So, if you spot a ladybird (every pun intended!) you can click here and submit your listings. The Biology.ie website is full of excellent information and you can even have your own account and add lots of wildlife and track it on your own map. Fabulous!

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The workshop itself was split into two parts: an introduction to ladybirds by the Bugman himself, Stephen McCormack (Bugman.ie) and after a ladybird hunt outside! Stephen also brought along books, a microscope and lots of different types of bugs to have a closer look at.

Bugs, bugs, glorious bugs
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Ladybird Larvae
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Stephen kicked off the workshop by telling us all we needed to know about ladybirds.

Stephen, the bugman
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    • There are 18 species of ladybirds (well 26 if you count the really tiny hairy ones!)
    • The name Ladybird was also known as ‘Our Lady’s Beetle’ as Mary had 7 sorrows and 7 joys and the ladybird had 7 spots!
    • As Gaeilge is Boin De meaning God’s Little Cow
    • They are the good guys and you should welcome them into your garden to munch on aphids, some species also tuck into mildews and fungi
    • Their life cycle is approximately a year
    • Ladybirds have few predators – some birds that feed in flight and parastoids. One example of a parasatoid is a Parasitic Wasp who injects her eggs into the ladybirds and the lady bird gets eaten from the inside
    • Their bright red (or yellow or orange) colour usually gives a warning to predators and they do secrete a yucky repellent if something just won’t leave them alone
    • The biggest predator problem at the moment is another Ladybird, called the Harlequin Ladybird which eats other ladybirds. The Harlequin Ladybird was introduced from Asia and appeared in Great Britain in 2004. Harlequin Ladybirds eat a lot, grow fast and breed fast.

Survey of the Harlequin Ladybird in 2009. Eek!
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Straight after lunch and armed with a sheet of all the different species of Ladybirds and a knowledge of where to find them we went Ladybird hunting.

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Some Ladybirds can be found by moving old branches or removing bark from a tree or under a pile of mulching leaves in a wooded area. Others can be found on the straggliest looking tree, bush or plant as that’s a sure sign there are some aphids there for them to eat. We used nets and swept bushes, nettles, long grass and shrubs.

Sweeping for bugs
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Another method was to lay an old oil cloth under a bush and hit the bush or give it a good shake and everything falls off onto the cloth, then you sit and wait and watch things move and then have a good rummage for bugs!

Stephen does actually beat around the bush
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As mentioned above, some Ladybirds like to eat fungi and when one of the kids brought this ginormous mushroom over we had little choice but to break it up and have a look.

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Then it turned blue!
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We only found a few ladybirds (apparently it’s the wrong time of year!), a 10-spot and a 6-spot and some precious Ladybird Larvae!

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Other interesting bugs we found amongst lots of spiders (one who lost it’s leg and the leg was still moving!)

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I have to say this workshop was brilliant, it was suitable for the hardcore Ladybird addicts and the kids who wanted to learn. We were each given folders with Ladybird information including a laminated ID sheet, there was colouring bits and pieces for the kids who wanted it and the lunch they laid out was pretty impressive. Above all, this whole day was completely free. If you see something else being run by The Irish Wildlife Trust, reserve your place early, I can’t recommend it enough!

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