Ladybirds are one of the most recognisable of our garden insects, but also one of the most beneficial. Both adults and larvae are voracious eaters of aphids - and, in reasonable numbers, are able to clear up infestations in a matter of days!
After emerging from hibernation, ladybirds are ready to mate. Batches of about 50 tiny yellow or orange eggs are then laid in a sheltered position (often on the underside of leaves). Ladybirds tend to lay there eggs close to a source of food so that when the eggs hatch about 10 days later, they have an immediate supply to start devouring! This feeding lasts for a few weeks before the larvae enters the pupae stage, attaching themselves to leaves or even polytunnel hoops! Roughly ten days later the adult ladybird emerges - albeit with a soft, often spotless shell. It will take a short period before their shells become hard and resemble the fully established adult ladybirds we are familiar with.
There are several ways in which we can encourage ladybirds into our gardens and growing spaces. As well as aphids, ladybirds also require a source of pollen for food. Growing plants that they find favourable, such as calendula, nasturtium and thyme could help attract them. In my own experience I have often noticed ladybirds clustering (and pupating) on the leaves of Fat Hen (Chenopodium album). An 'out-of-the-way' managed patch of this could be maintained for this purpose.
By placing 'insect hotels' around your growing space (Ladybirds are quite happy in a small log with holes drilled in to the side), not only can you offer your ladybird friends shelter through their active months, but also help encourage them to hunker down and hibernate 'on site'.