A giant swarm of up to 10 million ladybirds has descended on a farm and covered ‘every possible inch’ of the 20-acre site.
The red and black insect army fell ‘like a cloud’ over the farm and are now three or four deep on walls, tree trunks and machinery and look like a ‘crawling, wriggling carpet’ according to farmers.
It is the largest swarm of ladybirds in 10 years.
Experts say the explosion of ladybirds are feasting on the natural ‘larder’ of aphids or greenfly, a plant-eating insect, that descended on the farm near Chard, Somerset, last month.
Farmers there grow thousands of square metres of ‘eco-roofing’ made of sedum, a cactus-like grass – the aphid’s favourite food.
Ladybirds thrive on greenfly and as the sedum flourishes in summer, the numbers of aphids increase tenfold – attracting even larger numbers of the hungry bug.
Staff at Blackdown Horticultural Consultants say vast numbers of ladybirds arrive at the farm in Combe Saint Nicholas every July and August – but this year there are bumper numbers.
Alex Mortleman, the firm’s research and development officer, said each of the four fields contain around 2.5 million ladybirds, and countless more larvae.
These are made up of the common seven-spot Coccinella septempunctata, and the rarer 11-spot, Coccinella 11-punctata.
He said: ‘We’re used to large numbers of ladybirds here, but this year it’s just incredible.
‘We don’t use pesticides, so the aphids flourish on the sedum. That, in turn, attracts the ladybirds who arrived like a hungry cloud.
‘They’ve pretty well covered every possible inch. In some places, there’s so many that they look like crawling wriggling carpet. ‘Our staff working on the sedum are literally covered from head to toe in ladybirds the moment they leave the offices.’
Mr Mortleman said the insects are expected to remain on the farm until the aphids disappear in early autumn.
He added: This is the perfect solution to organic gardening. We love the ladybirds because they eat the pests, and we hope they’ll come back again year after year.’
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