The sunshine has brought out the ladybirds on our snow-in-summer. Some hurry along the raised bed sleepers in between the silvery leaves, clearly preoccupied with ladybird business, while others doze and mate on the warm wood.
The kids have always enjoyed watching these charismatic beetles with their striking patterns and distinct spots, so we decided to focus on ladybirds for our garden school maths project (with a bit of art and natural history thrown in for good measure). Ladybirds emerge from hibernation during spring, so now is a great time to go on a ladybird hunt. There are over 40 species in the UK, although only 26 resemble what we would generally think of as ladybirds. The number of spots varies between the species from 2 to 24 – ideal as the basis for a range of garden equations.
We started by learning about different species and drawing some of the different patterns so we’d be able to identify any ladybirds we found. Favourites included the 14-spot ladybird which we later found on the whitecurrant and the multi-coloured 10-spot ladybird. Once we’d learnt a bit about the different species we might find in the garden, it was time to get calculating…
MATHS: CALCULATE AREA
- Choose a sunny afternoon when ladybirds are likely to be out and about. Begin by measuring the length and breadth of a border, garden or any green space that you have access to – in metres.
- Calculate the area of your space by multiplying the two numbers together, to find the area in m2.
- Now measure out a m2 quadrat in one section of your space (1m x 1m) or a smaller quadrat – maybe 0.25m2 (0.5m x 0.5m) – if your space is restricted. Mark it out with bamboo canes or twine.
RECORD LADYBIRD NUMBERS
- Count all the ladybirds you can find in the quadrat and record by species on a tally chart. We also recorded ladybird larva, but not by species.
- Make a bar chart or pie chart to display the numbers and species.
- Work out how many quadrats there are in the whole space by dividing the total area by the area of your quadrat. Round up to the nearest m2.
- Calculate the estimated number of ladybirds in your space by multiplying the number in the quadrat by the number of quadrats in the total space.
- Of course, it’s possible that there are not many ladybirds in the quadrat or that those you find are all of one species. If this is the case, imagine some different scenarios such as:
- You find 10 two-spot ladybirds, 6 thirteen-spot ladybirds and 3 twenty-two spot ladybirds (feeding on the mildews on your herbaceous plants!) How does this change your calculations?
- What would happen if you find 12 ten-spot ladybirds, 9 five-spot ladybirds (you’ve clearly got a Welsh river running through the garden) and 4 beautiful yellow fourteen-spot ladybirds?
- Consider the equations in terms of spots rather than individual ladybirds. How many ladybird spots are there in your total space?
- Complete the same exercise for the results above in blue and make up some of your own ladybird sums.
- Throw in a few non-native harlequin ladybirds just to mix things up a bit. They can have up to nineteen spots!
- Attract more ladybirds to your garden in future by building a bug hotel to give insects somewhere to shelter.
- Avoid using pesticides in the garden – instead encourage natural predators like ladybirds, ladybird larva and blue tits that will eat problem insects such as aphids.
- Don’t be too tidy – overgrown areas, long grass and hollow stems left over winter are all beneficial habitats for ladybirds.
- The only disadvantage to creating an amazing habitat for ladybirds is that next year’s maths equations will be far more tricky!!!
For more garden schooling ideas – you can follow the blog below…
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I’ll be posting another project soon and if you’d like to read about our last projects you can explore the Seed Sowing Challenge and Nature Spells lessons here: