All good

While we sat drinking our cup of tea, looking over the garden we became aware of all sorts of life flitting through the plants. The European House Sparrow was making repeat visits to our kale plants carrying off mouthfuls of Cabbage White Butterfly larvae (more strength to her wings). The more and longer we looked the more we saw. First a bee and then a wasp. A green caterpillar was waving its body around, which soon ended in its being fed to one of our chickens.

As we discussed pulling out our really way past it zucchini plant we realised it was crawling with yellow and black ladybirds.

Several Fungus eating ladybirds, Illeis galbula, on our zucchini plant
Several Fungus eating ladybirds, Illeis galbula, on our zucchini plant

As you can see the plant has a bad case of powdery mildew. We though we should get rid of the plant and hope that a small seedling we still had might come good in the remaining warm weather. But we didn’t know whether these were ‘good’ or ‘bad’ ladybirds (garden friends or problem pests).

It turns out that these are native Australia lady birds, Illeis galbula, AKA the fungus eating laydybird! Just the ticket. A closer look revealed not only adults but lots of larvae, which I admit do look somewhat like marauding caterpillars, albeit very small ones, as they are about 1 centimetre long.

Larvae of the fungus eating ladybird, Illeis galbula
Larvae of the fungus eating ladybird, Illeis galbula

Furthermore we had the pupae as well! If you compare these two photos you can see that the pupae are rather shorter and fatter than the larval stage. Looking all together much more beetle-like.

Pupae of the fungus eating ladybird, Illeis galbula, the ones on the left of the picture are a bit more mature
Pupae of the fungus eating ladybird, Illeis galbula, the ones on the left of the picture are a bit more mature

It turns out that all stages of this tiny animal love eating fungus. So hang on to your mouldy cucurbits, if you have the space and let the ladybirds have a good munch. Or if you must pull the plants out leave it where the ladybirds and their offspring can readily get to them.

 

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