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Frequently Asked Questions

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Ladybirds and Parasites

Should I try and save the ladybird from the zombie wasp?

No. The ladybird is playing an important role in the life of the wasp and it is best to leave nature to take its course.

Why does my ladybird have a cocoon but its legs are still twitching!?

This is a natural part of how the process of wasp parasitism works. The wasp has developed inside the ladybird as a grub, before pushing its way out of the ladybird and spinning a cocoon between the legs of the ladybird. The reason it keeps the ladybird there is to get protection from the bad tasting ladybird against potential predators. The wasp has used its venom to keep the ladybird twitching, adding to the protection that the ladybird is providing the wasp against predation.

Why are they called ladybirds?

The 7-spot ladybird you are looking for is thought to have been the inspiration behind the name ladybird, a name which is thought to originate in religion. In many early paintings of the Virgin Mary (Our Lady), she is depicted in a red cloak and the 7-spots of the ladybird are suggested to be symbolic of the seven joys and seven sorrows of Mary.

Why is there is a hole in the end of my cocoon?

If you find a hole at the end of your cocoon that it could mean that your wasp has finished developing and has flown away! Just like a caterpillar changes into a butterfly in a chrysalis, this wasp changes from a grub to an adult wasp before chewing a little hole in the end of the cocoon and flying away. Because the cocoon is partially made if silk, the ladybird is stuck down and will stay like that even after the wasp has flown away.

Why do none of my ladybirds have cocoons?

Not all ladybirds will have a cocoon. If they did, then there would be no 7-spot ladybirds left! We want to know about ladybirds without a cocoon as much as we do about those with one! You may find that you have a cluster of ladybirds with lots of cocoons and you can’t see any anywhere else. This is quite common as the wasp is very small and can’t fly huge distances. The cocoon also only appears after the wasp egg has hatched and the grub is large enough leave the ladybird, therefore you could still have wasps in your area but the cocoon has not yet appeared.

Can the wasp sting me?

No. Parasitic wasps are very different from the big black and yellow wasp you see flying around in the summer. They are small and cannot sting. They have a long egg-laying tube (ovipositor), that looks a bit scary, but it is only used for laying their eggs into ladybirds.

When is the best time to look for ladybirds?

The best time to hunt is on a bright sunny day between 10am and 4pm.

I have seen other ladybirds when I am out looking for 7-spots, do you want to know about these too?

Although we always love to hear about your ladybirds, it would be best if you submit these to the UK Ladybird Survey so they can add them to their extensive database.

Does the number of spots really tell you how old the ladybird is?

No, the number of spots on a ladybird is fixed when they become an adult. The number of spots is different for different species and can even be different within the same species! The number of spots on a ladybird is determined by the ladybird species, its genetics and also the weather. Some ladybirds, like the harlequin ladybird, can vary their spots depending on how hot it was when the ladybird was a larva (some harlequin ladybirds have no spots at all if it has been very hot!).


Other

What is citizen science?

Citizen science, also known as crowd science, involves the general public in the scientific process, for example, data collection or analysis. It often allows the collection of data from a wider geographic spread than an individual scientist would be able to achieve alone.

I made a mistake when I inputted my record, what should I do?

If you have made a mistake with your records then please contact us at info@ladybirdchallenge.co.uk and we can edit it for you.

You say you need help with your research, what does that mean?

Katie is in the final year of her Ph.D. at the University of Stirling in Scotland. She is interested in the parasites associated with ladybirds and wants to look at the pattern of 7-spot ladybirds and Dinocampus coccinellae wasps across the UK. Creating a survey allows many eyes and hands to help in the search that she would struggle to complete on her own (especially with the same UK spread). Katie is also very keen to engage members of the public in nature and is interested in the role citizen science can play in this.

Isn’t there already a UK Ladybird Survey? Why shouldn’t I just record my sightings there?

You are quite right, there is a UK Ladybird Survey, co-lead by Helen Roy, who is also heavily involved in this project, as well as being one of Katie’s Ph.D. supervisors. Here at The Ladybird Challenge, we want to look at the parasites, as well as the ladybirds, and hope you will send us your 7-spot records (with and without cocoons). We will pass your records on to the UK Ladybird Survey, so they can add the records of 7-spots to their database.

Should I also submit my records to another recording scheme

Other recording schemes, such as the UK Ladybird Survey and Biological Records Centre, are interested in some of the data recorded on this site. We will share your records with them on your behalf. To avoid duplication of records, if you have already submitted your record to them please tick the 'do not share' button when submitting the record.

I have a different question

If you have a question that isn't listed here please email us at info@ladybirdchallenge.co.uk.