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Monday, 5 March 2012

Ladybirds - real ones and my mum's stories

They are everywhere at the moment! Just like this time last year, they are hampering my progress with tidying up the flower beds and clearing all of last year's dead growth. I'm finding them hiding under fallen leaves and in dead leaves still in place on stalks and as soon as I disturb them, which I can't help but do, they're coming to life and crawling around all over the place. I'm having to fish them out of my bucket of stuff to compost and I keep moving the little darlings so I can weed and have a bit of a dig over the flower beds. Coupled with stopping to take photos of them .... I may finish this task come summer!

They have taken a liking to my ornamental allium stems

All the more reason to not tidy up too much in the garden before winter; as well as seed heads for birds to eat and just purely looking more decorative than a barren, flat garden (and attractive seedheads and colourful stems can be used for Xmas decs), some of those dead stalks and leaves can help provide cover not just for the plant itself against the elements, but for all sorts of critters to overwinter amongst. Not to mention that the more robust stalks I am cutting back are being saved to add to my bee hotel, which I mentioned a while back in THIS posting.

These three were inside a dead leaf as I was cutting back the dead peony stalks!

I had high hopes last year that they would stick around until broad bean time so they could munch up all the aphids but for some reason the majority decided to go elsewhere. There were still a few about though and the aphid problem wasn't anywhere near as bad as usual, so I managed fine with a bit of a squidge and wash with soapy water (mostly for my fingers actually!).

I also found last spring that they took a liking to sitting around on euphorbia flowers - I've no idea why as there were no aphids on these plants but maybe they were attracted by the greeny yellow colour of the blooms? I'll never know but it was amusing; half the time I didn't really notice until I'd uploaded the photos and zoomed in on them!

Up until a couple of years ago I'd never seen more than a few here and there all through the summer. Then one day they came to the rescue in what I can only describe as a miracle, gardening wise.

I have a peach tree in the veg patch that two summers previously had been seriously attacked by blackfly, so much so that it lost half of its leaves and the fruit developed sooty mould as a result of the honeydew all over it (secreted by aphids) so they all dropped off. The poor tree suffered so badly it didn't have a single blossom the following year. So, the next year when it was finally covered in fruit I was really ****** off (I'm trying not to swear on my blog but I can't think of a suitable alternative expression! 'Annoyed' does not quite sum it up) to see it suddenly totally covered in greenfly.

I tried blasting them off several times with the hosepipe to no avail, I mean really, you just can't physically wash off thousands of leaves each covered in dozens of aphids, nor squidge them either. I was at the end of my tether and practically on the verge of giving up and going to buy some horrible chemical because it was one of those times when it had become beyond a joke.......

Then this happened.

Ladybirds appeared. They covered the tree, along with hoverflies, wasps and bees. The latter I believe were drinking the honeydew secreted by the aphids but those ladybirds were just gobbling up the aphids like there was no tomorrow. In less than a week the whole tree was clear! I picked off the fruit that looked like it had too much sticky honeydew on it to recover but was still left with a fair amount, the tree recovered and we had a good harvest of peaches after all.

I can see 9 in this pic

I have truly never experienced anything like it before and felt that at last this was the proof that if you garden with nature, not against it, that eventually there will come about a balance between the good guys and the bad guys and that everybody/thing will be happy and benefit (me included!).

I think these two got a bit carried away after dinner!!!

As an aside, watching ladybirds has reminded me that my mother recently gave me her manuscript of a story she wrote for my brother and I when we were nippers, back in the mid 60s. It was about a family of ladybirds and the adventures that the children got up to in their school holidays. Because it was set in Fiji (which is where we were born) it was a bit unusual but I loved it and mum did all the illustrations herself. It never got published of course and I have some of the rejection letters here - some were polite but some were quite rude, describing mum's illustrations as amateur! Of course they were, but what more would a 5 or 6 year old want?! To have a mini book written and illustrated by your own mother is a great gift, even at the ripe old age of ** (I'm not saying but you can probably guess). Home made rocks!

Here are a few photos of the pics she drew and painted which I hope you like almost as much as I do.


  1. What a lovely mum and what a lovely thing to have from your childhood too.... My folks kept a box of our 'art'work, but it's a bit different to have something that they did for you. My dad drew a little picture of me when I was 16, kind of as a joke because I was drawing him. It's one of my prized possessions, and is hanging up in the other (cold) room. The only ladybird I have seen this year was dead, unfortunately - I dug it up. Then I dug up a live frog, which was slightly disconcerting.

  2. Lovely book by your Mum! Something to treasure. I have written a long poem about a dragon which has been illustrated by a professional watercolourist and I love it. The children want me to get it published, but I don't know how to go about it and can't really be bothered. They can do it when I have thrown off this mortal coil!

    1. Brittanygirl, the obvious approaches are to publish on your blog or use something like Blurb to produce a book which is free for you to set up but expensive for readers to order.

  3. Thanks guys. It's funny though cos I don't have any artwork of mine which mum has kept other than some hideous pottery done at school (some of which she very 'kindly' gave back to me and I can't find!). I still have one of her tooth fairy notes and I have absolutely no idea how she managed to write so small!

    As for ladybirds, CC, when you've got some plants growing and flowering hopefully they will find their way to you - grow something which attracts aphids like broad beans.... and if you are looking at this whoever has anonymously +1 me (not JH cos I see him) I am mega curious as to why I don't see who does that!?!?! But thanks anyway :-)

  4. I love your Mum's Ladybird stories and the pictures she has drawn. What a lovely thing to treasuse.

  5. All the pictures (yours and your mothers) look pretty good to me.

  6. Thanks Will, and also thanks to Miss Lady Bug who I never thanked (very remiss of me).