An unexpected Christmas guest

We like to get a real tree for Christmas every year, the lovely smell of the pine really adds to the festive feeling! Sometimes we get more than we expected… a few years ago we found a beautiful nest in the tree; this year we found an unexpected visitor… a cute little ladybird.

It is likely that most of our Christmas trees are hiding a multitude of insects in various stages of life cycle and hibernation. In fact a recent article suggests up to 25,000 creatures may be found on one tree alone. These can include mites, aphids, beetles and spiders.  Many, like our little ladybird, may awaken from their hibernation once they are brought into the warmth of the house.  Some in the egg stage of development may hatch but most will just stay resting on the tree and will be none the wiser of their new surroundings, being removed from the house when the tree goes out after Christmas. Even if they do wander from the tree most of these insects pose very little threat to the house or its inhabitants and will often die due to heat and lack of food.
This little guy obviously did waken and decided to take a little walk around his new surroundings. We were glad to see him as we had noticed a real reduction in our sighting of ladybirds this Summer, a casualty of our late and hot weather meant a reduction in aphids and therefore a drop in their food supply. 
Who doesn’t like the ladybirds? Let’s hope the weather is more favourable for these little gardeners friends in 2014.

Here are ten facts about the ladybird that you may not have known…

  • There are about 5000 different species of ladybird in the world
  • Considered a great friend to the farmer and gardener because it eats crop harming aphids, a ladybird can eat up to 5000 insects in its lifetime (an adult may consume 50 aphids a day)
  • The name ladybird makes reference to “Our Lady” as European farmers in the Middle Ages thought they were sent by The Virgin Mary in response to their prayers to eradicate an infestation of aphids that were consuming their crops
  • Ladybirds can be found in many colours, not just red and orange and they can have stripes or other patterns rather than just spots
  • A ladybird’s bright colouring warns potential predators that it may be toxic; as a defense tactic they can secrete a foul tasting yellow oil from joints in their legs
  • A ladybird stays in flight by beating its wings 80 to 90 times a second
  • A female will lay at least 2000 eggs in their lifetime – the larvae hatch within days and start eating immediately
  • Females lay unfertilised eggs as well, these are thought to act as a back up food source for the larvae if normal food supplies are unavailable 
  • Geckos are not the only ones with super hairs on their bodies that allow their gravity defying feats, scientists have recently investigated the molecular structure of ladybird hairs in the hope of one day reproducing their amazing abilities for human purpose 
  • The Harlequin ladybird has invaded Ireland and is a big threat to our 15 native species. Bigger, hungrier and a potential predator this species could really impact the number of ladybirds in this Country. 


Science blogger and writer; Owner of Dr. How's Science Wows; Mother of three junior scientists who have taught me that to be a great scientist you need to look at life through the eyes of a child!

4 thoughts on “An unexpected Christmas guest

  • December 31, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    They were talking on Ray Darcy about ladybirds on Christmas trees. Apparently there have been huge numbers of them on trees this year. We just had the one but some people had loads of them on their trees. I didn’t know where the name came from either.

    • December 31, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      Ah’ I didn’t know that Una, that’s very interesting, thanks for sharing and Happy New Year x

  • December 31, 2013 at 11:57 am

    My kids asked me recently why ladybirds are called ladybirds and I had no idea, so I’m delighted to be able to tell them now (though I sense it will lead to 800 more questions 🙂 )

    • December 31, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      I know what you mean about all those questions ;0) but I can’t complain as they have inspired so many of these blog posts ;0) Happy New Year Office Mum, hope it’s a good one x

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