When was the last time you saw a ladybird?
I ask because one of the things I wanted to do this year was some photography using ladybirds as subjects. I even planned out some of the shots during the winter. Props and everything.
So it has come as quite a disappointment to me that this year, I haven't seen a single, solitary ladybird. Not one.
Now, this wouldn't normally concern me hugely. They're quite small insects and I suspect that I often just don't notice them.
But the thing is, this year I've been actively looking. On every walk, I've been keeping my eyes peeled. No 7 spot, no 2 spot, no 12 spot. Not even any Harlequins.
I've looked on window cills in sheds. Normally a rich source of ladybirds, albeit deceased. No ladybirds, living or otherwise.
I've looked on thistles. Nothing.
I've looked on nettles. Nada. Zip.
I've looked everywhere I can think of that there are aphids. Zilch. The aphids are around in numbers- presumably because they aren't getting eaten by any ladybirds.
I asked people. Well, 3 people. All amateur entomologists or nature lovers. One here in Devon, one in the Cotswolds and one near London. They couldn't remember seeing any ladybirds this year either.
One of them suggested that it might be down to the weather. Well, yes, I could understand fewer ladybirds. But none at all?
I contacted the ladybird census people. Yes, there actually is one. To date, I've had no reply. Maybe they've disappeared along with their little charges.
So where are the ladybirds? For once, Google isn't telling. There's nothing about a scarcity of ladybirds this year. There's nothing at all about ladybirds in 2016, as far as I can tell.
Although there are an increasing amount of articles, mostly from the U.S. (where they call them 'Ladybugs') pointing to a link between the use of Neonicitinoids and the death of non-target species such as ladybirds.
Is that it? Are the ladybirds disappearing from right under our noses?
Or am I wrong- have other people seen ladybirds this year? I'd love to be proved wrong, and awake to a long list of comments saying what a twit I am and that I'm just not looking hard enough. I'd love to know that somewhere away from North Devon, all the ladybirds are gathered having a good old laugh at my expense.
I really hope that's the case.