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I can smell ladybirds.

‘Strue.  I can.  I learned this in 1976, the year of the explosion of the ladybird population.  It would seem that not many people notice the smell but it’s fairly well documented; google for it and see.  They produce whiffy chemicals which deter predators from eating them, and when they are present in large groups it can be quite noticable.  I’ve been aware of the presence of single ladybirds in the past; I guess I must be well tuned to them.  It’s odd really; I’m notoriously unfussy about food and will eat anything, but I don’t think even I’d be tempted to try one of those little red bugs!

Occasionally, ladybirds also bite.  Again, in 1976, when the numbers of ladybirds led to a shortage of the aphids they fed on (must have been A Good Year For The Roses), people reported stings and bites from the ladybirds.  I experienced this; I was dressed only in an itsy bitsy teeny weeny blue and white polka dot bikini (it’s okay though, I was only 5 and no-one called Greenpeace) and I felt a sharp pain on my back between my shoulder blades.  I screamed bloody murder and this got my Mom’s attention, and the ladybird was just departing. When agitated, ladybirds also release the substance which makes them smell, and this can irritate the skin; I think I experienced this too, so I was even more agitated than the critter.

I can remember dreaming of ladybirds.  In my dreams, they were about an inch in length, and were all around the garden of the house I lived in as a small child.  I guess the swarms of that long hot summer played on my mind.  These days, I recognise them as friends in the garden but I’m not terribly fond of them.  At least I can trust my super-sensitive-ladybird-detector to know when they’re around!*

*Except today.  The dog had left something more acrid and smelly than a ladybird, and I could only smell that.


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