Well, it had to come to an end sometime. After more than two weeks of uninterrupted sunshine and soaring temperatures here in the UK, with yesterday being the hottest, and stickiest day yet, the heat wave has broken. We are now into official thunderstorm weather. Here in the West Country, the small hours of the morning brought with it a sky full of lightning flashes and deep, throaty rumbles of thunder along with sudden, heavy rainfall. The type of summer weather we are more used to in other words!
We are ready for this break I’ll admit, a reprieve (albeit a slight one) from the oppressive, close humidity, but of course, according to the Met Office, there is now the danger of sudden, heavy rainfall causing flash floods in some parts. Let’s hope not…let’s also hope that this isn’t the end of our Great British Summer.
Back in June (remember that, when we had forgotten what summer was?) we couldn’t have imagined what we were in for, it being still so cold and wet. A newspaper article I read at the time warned of the perils of such an extended, cold winter and its detrimental effect on a national (and gardener’s) favourite, the indomitable ladybird, she of childhood nursery rhymes, she a bringer of good luck. Not just any ladybird, however, for there are many species, but the seven-spotted ladybird.
The article warned that due to the very heavy rain we experienced last summer, garden aphids such as greenfly, were decimated. Their larvae provides food for the seven-spotted ladybird and so, unable to find enough food, a reduced number of these ladybirds went into dormant mode over the winter months and because it was so cold this winter and spring, only a very small proportion survived. Not so indomitable, sadly.
This is very bad news indeed for this lovely ladybird. Summer isn’t a proper summer without regular sightings of these delightful insects, keeping watch in our gardens and bringing spots of cheery colour among the fresh, green leaves as they provide population control of those pesky aphids. I have still seen plenty of greenfly on my roses this year, menace that they are, but sadly barely any ladybirds.
When my daughter was little, she used to love to try to catch ladybirds (or ladybugs as my American friends call them) in her hands and stroke their shiny wings before letting them fly away home…
When I lived in California, I loved to grow my roses as you who read this blog well know. I used to be able to buy a systemic aphid killer which avoided having to use a spray. This was not always easy to find and I was always on the look out for a more natural ‘cure’.
One year, it was a great year for the roses, ladybirds as far as the eye could see, happily devouring all those horrible aphids, and I didn’t have to use any spray. A healthy amount of ladybirds in one’s garden makes for healthy roses I always say! My roses were the healthiest they had ever been.
One year though, my little ladybird friends were thin on the ground. What to do?
I have mentioned my little gardening man, Sal, in an earlier post (see A Fridge Magnet’s Wisdom & My Little Gardening Man) and so it was to him that I turned with my dilemma. Sal, as always, had the answer to my question.
The garden centre where he worked actually sold ‘tubes’ of ladybirds Yes, you read that right. Tubes. Sal explained: Put the tubes in the fridge to keep the ladybirds cool and calm by day and then release them in the evening when the air is warm and still. Gently shake the ladybirds out on to the roses and Bob’s your uncle, greenfly problem sorted. (That last bit is me talking, not Sal as he is American, so he wouldn’t use that expression, obviously.)
Well, thank you very much Sal! The perfect solution! Now I could have my beautiful roses back and do ‘my bit’ for the environment all at the same time. No stopping me now.
Evening came, that kind of wonderful Californian summer evening when the warm air gently brushes against your skin and the golden light softens even the darkest corner, and I took the ladybird tubes from my fridge. My mother, who was visiting us from England, and my young daughter, stood with me in the garden, each with our own tube.
Together, we carefully took off the lids, allowing the ladybirds to warm up and wake up from their chilly slumber. Moving from rose to rose (I had a few!) we gently ‘sprinkled’ the ladybirds out of the tubes, dusting the roses like little sugar stars.
Satisfied with our day’s work, we stepped back to watch proudly as our new little ‘family’ settled in.
That would teach those pesky greenfly. They stood no chance. So I thought.
We remained there in the garden for a good ten minutes, glued to this fascinating ‘ladybird TV’. Then a very curious thing happened. It was as if my ladybirds had been summoned by some call heard only by them, some cry out from beyond…’ladybird, ladybird, fly away home…..’
We watched, speechless, as one by one, every single ladybird opened up her red, spotted wings and flew up into the air, far, far away, the summer breeze carrying them to the great beyond, as they disappeared from view, never to be seen again.
Little ladybug on my arm
you wear a heart as part of your charm
You joined me on this sunny day
just for a moment then you flew away.