Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home…

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…

My Little Girl Catching Ladybirds Amongst the Roses  (c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

My Little Girl Catching Ladybirds Among the Roses in our Californian Garden
(c) copyright Sherri Matthews 2013

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.
~Author Unknown

About Sherri Matthews

Sherri is a writer with work published in print magazines, anthologies and online. As a young British mum of three, she emigrated to California and stayed for twenty years. Today she lives in England's West Country, a full-time carer within her family. Her current WIP after completing her memoir is a psychological thriller.
This entry was posted in Childhood Memories, Current Affairs, Family Life, Garden Snippets, My California, Nature & Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Ladybird, Ladybird, Fly Away Home…

  1. jennypellett says:

    That is a wonderful story, I had heard you could buy ladybirds in bulk in the states but was slightly incredulous till now. Beautiful photo of your daughter, too.


    • Sherri says:

      Ahh, thanks Jenny, glad you enjoyed it and now you know the truth about buying ladybirds in bulk and in tubes 🙂 This photo of my daughter is one of my all time favourites…time passes so quickly…big sigh…..


  2. Wonderful storytelling, Sherri. I didn’t know that about the ladybugs (as we call them here). Nice photo, too.


    • Sherri says:

      That’s so kind, thanks Bev 🙂 I’m not sure if we can get them here in the UK or not. Since my first trial with a tube of ladybirds (ladybugs!) I haven’t tried it again! Just got to trust in nature’s rich pattern that the seven-spotted ladybird recovers in time for next year!


  3. Lesley Dawson says:

    It makes me wonder what instinct caused them to fly away and where they were headed for? My husband and I were just saying the other day that neither of us have seen a ladybird in the garden, or anywhere else for that matter, this summer and usually our garden is full of them. It just goes to show that aphids have their purpose in life – to attract ladybirds to the garden. 🙂

    Lovely photograph!


    • Sherri says:

      Hi Lesley, thanks so much for reading and sharing! I have often wondered where they all went and why…probably into the neighbour’s garden! It is so true about the aphids, as annoying as they are, having a purpose! Strange though, that even with it being a ‘bad’ summer for them last year, their numbers don’t seem to have diminished, only the poor ladybirds! Let’s hope that next summer is a different story 🙂


  4. gkm2011 says:

    What a story! Very much enjoyed it. Found my way here from Expatially Mexico.


    • Sherri says:

      Lovely to meet you and thank you very much for visiting me from Expatially Mexico (love Kristin’s blog!). Glad you enjoyed this little story 🙂


  5. Heyjude says:

    No ladybirds sighted here in Shropshire either, though plenty of aphids and now a plague of tiny caterpillars that are eaten my flowers!! They drill holes in the buds causing them to die , then curl up in the leaves – really tiny things I have no idea what they are, but I wish they’d go somewhere else 😦


    • Sherri says:

      Oh dear, I know the feeling. I grow butterfly bushes (buddleia) and lavendar to attract the bees and the butterflies, but I have also noticed loads of tiny ‘things’ eating my leaves and flowers. It’s probably the caterpillars so maybe my great idea has backfired! I’ve also recently found out that earwigs bore into flower buds, I had a real problem with that in the spring. If it’s not one thing, it’s another with gardening! It’s so sad about the ladybirds though, I think I ‘ve seen one the entire summer so far. Thanks for sharing Jude!


  6. Pingback: Saddle Up Saloon; World Wide Garden Tour « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

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