Update November 2014
I first blogged about all the ladybirds gathering on our large South facing windows during winter back in 2011 and since that time have done a couple of experiments to see what’s best to try and keep them safe and protected. I’m aware that some people may say let nature take it’s course but actually, if we didn’t have these huge warm panes of glass which act like ladybird magnets, they might hunker down and sleep quietly though the winter… so it’s partly our fault 😉
I did a bit of research and also have watched them over the last few years:
- Firstly it’s not great for ladybirds to stay indoors with central heating & high temperatures. It’s too warm and they wake up from hibernation way before their usual March or April, find no natural aphid snacks available and can starve to death. Also a dry centrally heated atmosphere can dehydrate and kill them. That’s why they huddle, to keep moisture up and regulate their temperatures.
- Ladybirds like to cuddle up together in high up places like around the top of window corners. When they’re all cuddled up like this they’re deep asleep but an extra warm day or high central heating stirs and wakes them into thinking it’s Springtime, which is bad news.
- The ladybird life cycle is below, that’s a lot of sleeping! If we get a very mild Autumn into winter, many are still awake, looking for food which is getting scarce.
- If they’ve huddled up in your shed or a coolish room and they don’t bother you, leave them be, but if the room is too warm, bright or well used, you might want to move them. Far better to be tucked up in a ventilated box with pals in a cool dark place than at risk of early wakening / drying out. A greenhouse is a great place for them to overwinter or an outside porch.
- Use a large match box and pop lots of air holes in it (not too big though). I’ve found that using a very soft small make up / fine paint brush is the best thing to gently catch them in a large match box then slide it closed so it’s dark to calm them down and send them back to sleep if they’ve woken. Don’t shake it about! Ladybirds are relatively hardy when they’ve got their legs all tucked up so if one falls to the floor on its back, gently put the brush near its soon to be waggling legs as it tries to right itself. It’ll cling to the brush and you can pop it back in the box with its pals.
- I’ve tried bought insect houses and the like and none have worked, the ladybirds just crawl right out and head back up high to windows etc.
- If you are really kind, you might like to create a special dark shelf up high near a window where they might live over winter. I’m seriously going to ask the joinery firm who are making our new bays to do this 🙂
Last year I used a shoe box with air holes in the top and filled it with leaves, popping the ladybirds in there, probably about 60 of them. In March I put it on a West facing window ledge and by mid-March most had gone. About 15 had died and were left in the box. I’m not sure if this is a natural rate but this year I’m trying a smaller box so they huddle like they do naturally. Maybe the shoebox was too big and some got too cold? I’ll let you know next Spring if it works 🙂
And if you do have a few ladybirds in your home during this mild winter, bear in mind it could be much much worse…. take a look at this article about a US ladybug invasion in Colorado!!