Umbrella (Beating Tray)
The use of a beating tray, or in my case an upturned umbrella, with a stick to dislodge insects from vegetation, is a standard recording technique for entomologists.
The vegetation is tapped with the stick, a few quick taps work well and the insects fall into the umbrella held below.
It can be used to find the same species that turn up in garden wheelie bins, by beating evergreen shrubs in gardens. This is likely to include Epaulet, Red-flanked and Forestier's Ladybirds.
Photo by Liz Jewels
Beating garden shrubs
It is especially useful in woodland situations. Pine trees, including small scattered trees on heathland, can be very productive. Not only will Conifer Ladybird be seen but the conspicuous pine specialists will also be found.
Ivy covered tree trunks are also a good area to try.
In winter, the Ivy and Holly understory in deciduous woodland can be a good place to find overwintering Epaulet and Forestier's Ladybirds.
Ivy Ladybird can be beaten from sunny Ivy patches on tree trunks and fences.
Photo by Liz Jewels
Carefully checking umbrella contents
An umbrella is cheaper than a beating tray, but has the disadvantage of being flimsy and having lots of places for these tiny species to hide.
As with other recording techniques for finding inconspicuous ladybirds, it is important to be patient and look long and hard to spot any still individuals hiding under spokes or flaps.
Several ladybirds beaten from pine tree
Ladybirds can hide under plant debris
Beating vegetation is the traditional term for this recording technique but many recorders prefer the term tapping vegetation. This sounds less destructive and can be useful if trying to ask permission to record on private land.
A successful haul
Four Forestiers and two Epaulet Ladybirds tapped from a potted Euonymus shrub.
Other insect and taxon groups will also be found using this technique and on days with few ladybirds I always find something of interest. Shieldbugs, another group I am interested in, are regular and it is also a useful way to find micro-moths.