22 Spot Ladybirds
About a month ago I was bemoaning the mildewy state of our courgette plants when I noticed a brilliant yellow speck moving about in the foliage. Upon taking a closer look I was happy to find this pair of 22 spot ladybirds taking advantage of the sunny weather by mating vigorously (and for ages!) on the chewed and greying leaves.
It was impossible to get a better photo without disturbing them, but as these ladybirds are tiny – only 3 to 5 mm long, I was pleased to get any picture at all. All ladybirds are welcome in our garden – they are wonderful pest control – but I only found out how pleased I should have been on behalf of our courgettes yesterday when I read this post about ladybirds in Hagbourne Wildlife, which told me that the 22 spot eats mildew! I had no idea that there were any non-carnivorous ladybirds so I did a little bit of research.
Native to Europe, their latin name is Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata, often abbreviated to Psyllobora 22-punctata, and they can reliably be identified from their small size and uniformity of markings. Each wing case has 11 evenly spaced black spots. The pronotum (the section between the head and the abdomen) also has 5 black spots, which don’t seem to have been counted when this insect was given it’s name. You’ll find them on low growing mildewed (mouldy) plants, and a quick scout around wildlife forums also revealed fun informal accounts of them coming into utility rooms or living in house plant pots where the compost has become mouldy.
Alas my yellow spotted friends could do little for the courgettes – even if they bred a 22 spot army the mildew had already well and truly taken hold. I still like to think of their larvae munching bravely away – at least they won’t go hungry.