I must confess that I hadn’t, at first, noticed the incredible scenes that were happening all around me, but I did have a good excuse. Well, I thought so anyway!
I was watching something very special that had arrived on the North Norfolk Coast - a great spotted cuckoo. Wow! That's not something you see every day. Now, when you're confronted with something as fabulous as that, especially when it’s posing in full view, I think you can be excused for suffering from tunnel vision. Seeing such a beautiful - and rare - bird was so exciting, but it wasn’t the most amazing thing I saw that day.
Once the cuckoo had vanished after conveniently perching alongside a common cuckoo, each with a beakful of fat, hairy caterpillar, I reached around to pick up my bag. Then I realised that the grass, and all the fenceposts around me were absolutely covered in seven-spot ladybirds. They were on my bag, on my binoculars and even down my shirt!
Walking on further around the coast, the scale of the invasion became apparent. Ladybirds were streaming in off the sea constantly, like driving rain, and crash landing on the first thing they came to – ice creams, cups of tea, people’s heads, the shingle beach - even my bacon sandwich! Luckily I noticed the cheeky interloper in time. At one point, I even had to cover my eyes as streams of the tough little bugs bounced off my face.
I’m told that the last time such scenes occurred was in 1976, before I was even born. It was a really hot summer that year (not the case this year!) and the ladybirds bred so successfully that their numbers were huge. Do you remember it?
It was impossible to count how many ladybirds I saw that day. A quick estimate gave me a figure of about 2-300 hundred on every square metre of ground, so if you scale that up…well, it’s mindboggling!
Over the next few weeks, you should find that these lovely little creatures, the aphid-eating gardener’s friends, have come to visit your garden, so keep an eye out.
I felt very privileged to see such amazing scenes at the weekend - a real bonus. Did you witness the spectacular arrival of ladybirds? Have they arrived in your garden yet? Please post a comment and let us know!
Thanks for the comments Crafty Green Poet and Paula.
I've noticed ladybirds have now started to appear in good numbers where I live in Cambridgeshire, since I wrote this blog post, so they're spreading inland. They'll be welcome in my garden, which is currently home to lots of painted ladies - the other insect 'invader' grabbing the headlines in the press this year!
I remember a similar thing happening to me in my back garden in London. All of a sudden we were just surrounded by ladybirds! They were all over the trees, the grass and all over us and it was amazing - this was in the 90's though, so must have been a mini invasion, not of 1976 proportions, but still spectacular and one of my most memorable wildlife moments.
I remember the 1976 invasion very well. This year I've seen more ladybirds than I have for a long time, including orange ladybirds with white spots
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