Tag Archive: ladybird


Picture by Barry Simmons

Picture by Barry Simmons

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Grey mould on strawberries

Grey mould on strawberries

Do you spray your strawberries against fungal infections?

An innovative development at the East Malling research centre in Kent may make this a thing of the past, At least if you keep bees that is. Scientists have designed a dispenser to fit into bee hives that the bees move through on their way out of the hive to forage for nectar. As they do so, they pick up a tiny amount of biofungicide, Gliocladium catenulatum ( a fungus which suppresses the growth of grey mould). The sunbstance sticks to their legs and bodies and as they move among the strawberry plants a small amount is deposited on each bloom, preventing grey mould being carried onto developing fruit. And tests have shown that the bees’ control was just as good as when the crops were sprayed – and there was the bonus that fungicide residue on the fruit was reduced. Sounds like a brilliant development that will probably benefit commercial strawberry production, but maybe a kit will also be produced for the serious home strawberry grower- bee keeper!

This ‘bioweapon’ isn’t the only one being reported at present. It seems that the invasive Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) is also armed with its own ‘bioweapon’ which is helping them to out compete native ladybirds.

Harmonia axyridis, the Harlequin Ladybird

Harmonia axyridis, the Harlequin Ladybird

German scientists have found  that the Harlequins carry a fungal parasite in their blood that they can tolerate, but which is fatal to other types of ladybird. There’s some uncertainty about how the natives become infected,, but it seems likely that their habit of eating other ladybirds’ offspring may be to blame. Seven native types of ladybird in the UK have declined in numbers by up to 44 per cent since the arrival of the Harlequin in 2004. Originally introduced from China as a way to control aphids, the Harlequins do not so far seem to have affected the numbers of Seven Spot ladybirds.

Another, more positive finding from the research is that the fungal parasite carried by the Harlequins seems to kill the bacterium responsible for tuberculosis and the malaria parasite, so there may be the possibility of developing medicines that can help to cure these important human illnesses.

Source: ‘The Garden’- RHS Journal August 2013

Old School Gardener

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