7 spot is the classic and most abundant ladybird species in Cumbria.
Like the other common species, the 2 spot, it is found in a wide variety
of habitats because it feeds on many different species of aphid.
characteristic bright colour is a well-known warning device to predators
that it is not pleasant to eat because it contains poisonous chemicals.
However, this is not always fool-proof as birds that catch insects on
the wing are known to take ladybirds. Presumably, the urgency of the
moment and the whirr of the wings stop the predator from noticing the
species overwinters in any sheltered spot - one favourite place in my
garden is within a very tight conical abies conifer. Usually small numbers
aggregate here, with up to a dozen appearing on the surface in the first
warm days of spring.
takes place in late spring, without much ritual it would seem. If the
female is ready it may be a case of first come first served (see photo
above!). If the female wants to reject the male she simply lifts her
body off the ground to try to dislodge the male.
are usually laid in late May or early June and take a few days to hatch.
During the next four weeks or so, the larvae pass through several instar
stages by shedding their skin. The late instars (see photo) are easy
to find, although few people who know ladybirds well would know what
pupation stage may last from a few days to a fortnight depending on
the temperature. In my garden, leaves of sturdy plants like dahlia are
a popular location. Adults emerge in September and October and spend
a few weeks feeding to build up fat reserves for the winter before moving
to over-wintering sites.
very hot weather population explosions can occur. If the supply of aphids
runs out, swarms of ladybirds will start biting humans, especially those
lying on the beach covered in suntan cream (as happened memorably in
the mid 1970's).