National Trust for Scotland rangers at Castle Fraser in Aberdeenshire have found something rather interesting in the surrounding trees... unusually high numbers of orange ladybirds.
Orange ladybirds can usually be found in the sycamore trees that line the Broad Walk at Castle Fraser but this is the first year that they have been seen in such abundant numbers.
Wildlife experts from the charity which conserves and promotes Scotland’s heritage say that the find could be due to plentiful food supplies this summer. But, could it perhaps herald a mild winter ahead?
National Trust for Scotland ranger, Toni Watt said:
“We first noticed the ladybirds several years ago while carrying out tree safety inspections and have since looked for them every year.
“They seem to prefer certain sycamore trees along the main drive, some of the old ones with good ridges and crevices in the bark for the ladybirds to shelter underneath.
“This particular sycamore tree is always a favourite for some reason. Knowing it is a good tree I do keep a look out for the ladybirds but have never seen numbers like this before.
“Sycamore and ash are the favoured hosts of the orange ladybird and this is thought to be contributing to the insects becoming more common across the UK.
“They feed on the powdery white mildews growing on the leaves of deciduous trees, so the increased population could mean that this has been a particularly good year for their favoured food.
“But, the proportion of orange ladybirds overwintering up in the trees can apparently correlate to winter temperature - so do the ladybirds know what the coming winter is going to be like? It will be interesting to see whether they stay put in the trees, or move to leaf litter as they do in harsh winters.”
The sycamore avenue at Castle Fraser is known as the Broad Walk and appears on all maps and plans from the Roy map in 1750 onwards. Some of the trees are almost 200 years old.
Castle Fraser is an atmospheric baronial castle dating back to the 15th century and was the ancestral home of the Fraser family. As you venture through the castle and up to the round tower, with its panoramic views of the gardens and estate beyond, you get a sense of life from the medieval to the Victorian period.
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