Spots in the landscape

Every day I realise the extent of my ignorance, especially ignorance about the natural world around me -and particularly within Tasmania which I often assume I know best. When recently I read the January issue of ABC’s Gardening Australia magazine I discovered there was more than one type of ladybird, that wonderful tiny insect with which most people would be familiar. I had never stopped to think that those tiny beings with their spotted backs might have a family with difference. 

So I studied the article and went out into my garden to find some spotted beings and then to see if I could identify them.  At the end of a day I found only one, although I have seen many on various plants over recent weeks – and yes, if you know the food preference of many species, I have aphids on some plants which is wonderful tucker for ladybirds.

I found a glossy example of the Large Spotted Ladybird Harmonia conformis walking around under a leaf. When I looked closely and thoughtfully, I could see the black spots were positioned in a straight line diagonally across the back, over a glistening orange red base. From now on I will be vigilant for ladybirds and I am curious to discover whether I have more than one type in my garden. If I do, I will want to determine whether specific ladybirds prefer one plant over another.

So, despite my level of ignorance being reduced, I have much to learn. I hope this blog post and the magazine article will inspire you to look at ladybirds near you and identify their differences.

Recently a friend told me her daughter has a garden and ‘she just stood back and let nature do her work, after finding aphids in the garden and reading that ladybirds prey on them. And to her amazement, it worked.’

After ‘my’ discoveries of the south west of Tasmania (written up over recent weeks in this blog), the Tarkine and the Derwent and much more around Tasmania, the tiny world of lady birds may seem minor and unworthy of recording.  I have introduced their story because they are part of the integrated and rich environment which sustains us all.

The CSIRO has a website dedicated to ladybirds and you can see and read more here. If you dig around on this site you will find ladybirds from elsewhere in the world. Fascinating. So decorative.

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