Known Ladybird over-wintering sites
     
After finally finding the Harlequin Ladybird's stronghold in the Eakring area during early November 2006, the next step was to determine where they would over-winter.

Observations on November 5th and 6th of that year, revealed that one particular Ivy-covered Hawthorn on the edge of Hare Hill Wood, was extremely attractive to many Harlequins. Adults were actually observed landing and then walking into the Ivy and further up the tree. This was thought at the time to be the most likely site for over-wintering adults and would be checked during the dormant Winter period.

After finding an adult Harlequin Ladybird at the end of December 2006 wintering openly on a small Pine at Warsop Main Pit Top, it was thought that the Eakring population would be easy to find. It turned out that they were in fact extremely difficult to find and out of a known minimum number of 151 counted the previous November, just six Harlequins were eventually found in January.

 
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Wintering preferences of the 7-spot Ladybird

Searches and counts at several Nottinghamshire sites during the opening weeks of January 2007, showed that the 7-spot Ladybird could easily be found in any open situation. Where young Pines grow in profusion: e.g. on most landscaped former colliery sites, 7-spot Ladybirds can often be found at the end of growing shoots of Pines usually less than six feet tall. Even at different sites where young Pines grow adjacent to mature trees, 7-spot Ladybirds were found on the younger trees about 90% of the time. This was surprising as mature Pines would seem to offer considerably more protection from the elements to over-wintering adults. Dead plant material remaining from the previous season such as Thistle, Bramble, Burdock or Dock, are all commonly used as over-wintering sites by 7-spot Ladfybirds, but sites underneath the forks of quite small branches are also utilised.

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  Having never before looked for Ladybirds during the Winter months, the shear numbers we have found has been quite staggering, but it has been the relative openess of the 7-spot Ladybird's chosen wintering sites that has surprised most.

Although the Winter of 2006/2007 has been extremely mild for much of the time, unexpectedly easy three figure counts of 7-spots have come from Warsop Main Pit Top (109, January 19th) Hare Hill Wood near Kersall (255, January 25th) and Budby Common (117, January 25th)

Over-wintering Harlequin Ladybirds

On January 25th, we visited Hare Hill Wood to look for Harlequins. After finding the one earlier in the month on Warsop Main Pit Top, it was expected that the Harlequin's over-wintering habits would be similar to those of the 7-spot. A thorough search of all vegetation unexpectedly proved fruitless, but we eventually met with some limited success when six Harlequins were found in a group with 2-spot Ladybirds under loose bark.

Although there are references to urban Harlequin populations coming indoors to over-winter, we could find no information regarding the over-wintering habits of rural populations. The chosen wintering site came as a surprise and the lack of records regarding more exposed over-wintering adults, would suggest that those within rural locations do seek shelter.

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Finding hibernating ladybirds in Winter
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Location   Species
Young Pines and Gorse often near the end of the previous years growth   7-spot Ladybird, 11-spot Ladybird and Adonis Ladybird. Occasionally Cream-streaked Ladybird, Pine Ladybird, 2-spot Ladybird and Kidney-spot Ladybird
On mature Pines, possibly near top of previous year's growth   Striped Ladybird. The over-wintering sites of this species are still not known to science. One was found after severe winds on the foliage of a fallen Scots Pine in January 2007. (underneath the bark of mature Pines seems the most likely hibernation site) A second was found at the end of previous year's growth, at a height of two metres on Budby South Forest in January 2010.
On dead vegetation such as Thistle heads, Burdock, Willowherb and Bramble   7-spot Ladybird, Adonis Ladybird and occasionally Harlequin Ladybird
Within crevices on tree trunks   Orange Ladybird, Heather Ladybird, Cream-streaked Ladybird (underneath flaky bark of mature Pine) and Pine Ladybird
Underneath fallen logs and the bark of dead trees   Harlequin Ladybird and 2-spot Ladybird, occasionally Orange Ladybird and 14-spot Ladybird
Within hollow stems and between old leaves and stems of Bulrush by water   Water Ladybird, Harlequin Ladybird, Coccidula rufa and Coccidula scutellata
On evergreen shrubs, usually within curled or rolled up leaves   14-spot Ladybird and 10-spot Ladybird. We recorded both these species over-wintering for the first time during garden maintenance work in late Janury 2011.
In leaf litter   7-spot Ladybird, 16-spot Ladybird, 10-spot Ladybird and Cream-spot Ladybird
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  Because of the Harlequin's reportedly hardier nature, we had expected to find them in similar situ to the 7-spot and indeed had wondered if both Harlequin and 7-spot Ladybird would over-winter in mixed species' groups. The answer to the latter question is undoubtedly no.

With evidence found during the Winter of 2006/2007, some Ladybirds are far easier to find than others. Elusive species have been 11-spot Ladybird (probably rare in Nottinghamshire anyway with only two NBN Gateway records presently in their database) Cream-streaked Ladybird, Striped Ladybird and Heather Ladybird.

In 2010, over-wintering Water Ladybirds were found in numbers at Eakring Flash.

The typical sites were on Bulrush as shown in the left hand photograph, either within hollow stems or between the old leaves and stems. Other insects (including the related Coccidula rufa) were found in the same locations, and were often in company with spiders.

Searching for Ladybirds has certainly been entertaining and enlightening Winter pastime. Many pass the period completely exposed to the elements. Whether it has always been so remains unknown, for even the coldest modern Winter weather is usually short-term when compared to say 20 or 30 years ago.

     
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