This peculiar little thing is a ladybird larvae and is every gardener's best friend. Each one is only about 1cm long but they have a huge appetite for greenfly, whitefly and a whole host of other garden nasties. In terms of their appetite to eat aphids, ladybirds and their offspring are only just beaten into second place by hoverflies who should be another welcome guest to any gardener. You can buy ladybird larvae to release into your garden or greenhouse but the best way to attract them is to make you garden a wildlife haven so that as many ladybirds take up residence there as possible. We've got hundreds of them all over the plot, so much so that I often spend more time moving them to safety than weeding when I'm supposed to be tidying up!
Ladybird adults like to take nectar or pollen from Alliums, dill and yarrow, which are the same plants that hoverfly and lacewings adore. The other good way to encourage them into your garden is to make sure there is plenty of tempting food for them. If you grow plants that are laden with aphids like nettles and honeysuckles you will soon create a healthy community of ladybirds who will keep on top of aphids all over your plot. It is also good to provide a home for ladybirds and lacewings in the winter. They are happy to hibernate in conifers, evergreen hedges and dense herbs but it is possible to make nest boxes from hollow stems for them as well. Just make sure you leave the stems in a nice dry place. Ladybirds will also make a home for themselves inside garden canes in the autumn so, if you haven't tidied them away by autumn, it's best to leave them until the following spring so that these amazing little creatures who have taken up residence don't get disturbed.