The London and Essex Ladybird Surveys
These are separately organised by the London Natural History Society (LNHS) and the Essex Field Club. The aims and methods of the surveys are the same and I welcome records from both areas. London is anywhere within 20 miles of St Paul's Cathedral (map). Essex is the local government county along with the London boroughs east of the River Lea.
Most species are pictured on this page. (One day I hope to show them all and would be pleased to receive photos of missing species.) My thanks to photographers who have contributed pictures. More pictures, particularly of unusual variants, are on a separate page. All pictures on this page are of mature 'adults' (imagines): earlier life stages are pictured elsewhere (reproduction and life history). There is a separate page for the recent invader Harmonia axyridis, the harlequin ladybird.
I welcome regular observations or occasional records. Anyone wishing to help may contact me (e-mail). Essex records can be sent by the E.F.C. site. Please leave a terrestrial address if you would like me to send paperwork or try downloading these HTMLs: a simplified identification key, a page of silhouettes which may be coloured in and some collecting notes. (Ladybirds may also be identified using one of two books: Ladybirds by Majerus and Kearns (Richmond Publishing Co, PO Box 963, Slough SL2 3RS); Ladybirds of Surrey by Hawkins (Surrey Wildlife Trust, School Lane, Pirbright, Woking GU24 0JN)). Twenty-five British ladybirds are in the beetle family Coccinellidae. The twenty-three of these which you might see in London and Essex are described in the identification key. (Of the other two, one (13-spot) is extremely rare in the U.K. and the 5-spot is found only in Welsh and Scottish estuaries.) Another sixteen coccinellids which are not easily recognised as ladybirds, since they are very small or unusually shaped, have been found in the London area. There are interim lists of Essex and London coccinellids and maps will be added as data becomes available. I and the societies thank all contributors
Some ladybirds are important in controlling pests on plants in gardens or farming. Other insects important in gardens are pictured in 'Insects in Gardens'. If you're not sure whether your beetle is a ladybird, try the 'Other Beetles' page or links. The 'common' English names of ladybirds are used in this text but the scientific names are given in the header: another page deals with the taxonomy and nomenclature of the Coccinellidae. NB: sizes are not usually given precisely but see the note on size. Feeding, disease and mortality are also dealt with elsewhere. Species are not arranged in alphabetical or taxonomic order - similarly coloured species are grouped with the most common ones first.
This page is getting rather long so has been divided into native, atypical, exotic, possible species!
Seven-spot ladybird Coccinella septempunctata
The most abundant British ladybird but there was a massive reduction of its numbers in 1999-2000. Numbers subsequently fluctuated, peaking in 2003 though not at high numbers. It eats aphids (greenfly, blackfly etc.). Irene Geoghegan's work in Scotland suggests that the 7-spot has been infested at high levels recently by the parasitic wasp Dinocampus coccinellae. This has not been widely reported in our area. It is one of the largest British ladybirds at 6-8mms long. (More pictures) photograph © Irene Geoghegan
Scarce seven-spot ladybird Coccinella magnifica
It very much resembles the 7-spot but is usually slightly smaller and may have an extra, small spot on the shoulder of each elytron. Distinction between the two is by counting the small white patches on the underside of the beetle. However, the two are seldom seen together since the Scarce 7-spot is only found in the company of wood ants. (Click pic for overview)
photograph © Matt Smith
Two-spot ladybird Adalia bipunctata
The second most common British ladybird but the most common one in urban areas in the south-east: the 'city-slicker', as Roger Hawkins describes it. Like the 7-spot, it eats many types of aphids and its population declined drastically in the spring of 1998 but, unlike the 7-spot, it seemed to recover in 2001. Like the 10-spot, it shows great variation of pattern. The adjacent picture shows the usual (typica) form but spots may be extended or multiplied; black areas can extend in various patterns, ultimately to give a black ladybird with four (or fewer) red spots. (Pictures of variants)
Ten-spot ladybird Adalia decempunctata
Closely related to the 2-spot and almost as variable. It may have between 0 and 15 spots; in contradiction many identification keys (including our own) 10-spots may have a scutellar mark (at the mid-front) and thus appear eleven-spotted. Unlike the 11-spot ladybird proper, they have pale legs. It is most numerous on trees but is not uncommon on low-growing plants. (Pictures of variants)
Adonis' ladybird Hippodamia (Adonia) variegata
This species is not widespread but can be quite abundant in patches. It is not uncommonly seen in 'weedy' situations such as derelict sites or waterside where it may be present in quite large numbers. Populations are usually transient. It prefers warm positions particularly on sand or gravel with sparse vegetation: it is very common near the Mediterranean. It normally has six spots to the rear of the hind-body and has a longer scutellar marking (in the middle of the fore edge) than other species. It's legs are largely black but brown at the ends. (More pictures)
11-spot ladybird Coccinella undecimpunctata
This species is not common but is regularly seen in the Thames Valley and Essex coast. Its abundance is largely determined by climate and weather: it prefers warm, moist places; populations decline seriously after hard winters. It usually has eleven black spots (which may be quite large) on red elytra. In this form it can only be confused with a 10-spot: however, the 11-spot always has black legs in contrast to the pale, brown legs of the 10-spot (More pictures).
Hieroglyphic ladybird Coccinella hieroglyphica
This quite uncommon species is confined to Calluna heather but is sometimes found away from heaths. It is named from the distinctive black mark at the front of the hindbody. The picture (© Lakeland Wildlife) has a typical hieroglyphic' mark but it often joins up with the spots behind. This process can extend to produce individuals with virtually all-black elytra - more pictures.
Lives by water, mainly on rushes. Spot number is variable due to fusion and the background colour changes drastically before overwintering (R). L by River Rom © FRD Linehan; R by R. Colne © Denzil Devos
Pine ladybird Exochomus quadripustulatus
A very common ladybird (in urban areas especially) but is less often observed than red or yellow ladybirds: partly because it inhabits tree trunks and branches, because it is most often visible in late Winter and early Spring and, perhaps, because people don't expect ladybirds to be black! Lives on a variety of scale insects. Much resembles the melanic (quadripustulatus) 2-spot but has a rim around hind body - somewhat tortoise-like - and the fore spots do not reach the edge of the elytra. Unlike most ladybirds, when handled, rather than flying away, it prefers to sucker down to the tree or leaf surface.
Kidney-spot ladybird Chilocorus renipustulatus
This is a distinctive tree-dwelling ladybird. It is often found with Pine ladybirds although in smaller numbers. It has only two spots which are sometimes indented to give the appearance of a kidney (or a kidney-bean, for vegetarians). It is more domed and larger than any other native 'black' ladybird: with experience it is easy to differentiate from the Pine and other mainly black ladybirds (More pictures).
Heather ladybird Chilocorus bipustulatus
This is also a black animal, similar in shape to the Pine and Kidney-spot ladybirds. It has a narrow, linear red stripe running across each elytron which may be broken into two or three thin spots. In Britain it is only found on heather (Calluna) heath or on conifers, especially juniper, nearby It also eats scales on many other plants elsewhere in Europe.
Striped ladybird Myzia oblongoguttata
Another tree-dwelling ladybird. This large (7-8mms) species is found only on Scots pine.
It may have up to 15 stripes/spots.
Photograph © Ian Menzies
Cream-streaked ladybird Harmonia quadripunctata
Another large species (about 7mm) which lives on pine trees but is more commonly found than the Striped ladybird. It is quite variable and may have no spots or up to sixteen. (With four spots it may resemble a form of the 10-spot but the latter is much smaller). In the photograph a single specimen is overwintering with a group of 2-spots (including annulate ones) under woodland bark. (More pictures) Photograph © Ian Menzies
Cream-spot ladybird Calvia quattuordecimguttata
This is a relatively common species which has a distinctive chestnut brown background colour. The similar 18-spot ladybird has a star-shaped scutellar spot (on the midline at the front of the hindbody). This is an aphid-eater with an apparent attachment to ash trees in Surrey but it is also often found on umbellifers such as hemlock and cow parsley. (More pictures)
Eighteen-spot ladybird Myrrha octodecimguttata
This is an uncommon species found only on coniferous trees. It resembles the Cream-spot ladybird in colouration but has more spots and a very distinctive, star-shaped scutellar spot. This was found on West Heath by Denzil and Jenny Devos.
Eyed ladybird Anatis ocellata
The largest British ladybird (8mm) is almost always found on pine trees especially Scots Pine. It receives its name from the golden haloes around its spots. However, both the numbers and colours of spots are variable. (More pictures)
Where present it may be found in quite large aggregations.
Larch ladybird Aphidecta obliterata
Another tree-dwelling species which, unusually, lives up to its name: it is most commonly found on larch (Larix spp) trees, and on other conifers. It is often completely unmarked but usually has stripes, at least along the mid-line. However, rarely individuals may have between 2-6 spots (more pictures).
Orange ladybird Halyzia sedecimguttata
[Pictured on Home Page]
Like the 22-spot, this species is mycetophagous (fungus eating) and lives on the mildews of various trees. It was once an inhabitant of old, particularly oak, woodland: once uncommon, it was noted more frequently over the last decades of the 20th century when it was found on conifers and sycamore. There was a population explosion in Epping Forest during 1998-99. It has now been seen in many woods throughout London, on Hampstead Heath and even appears on trees in gardens and the central London parks. Amongst British ladybirds, the species is unusual insofar as it may overwinter as pupae. The recent large aggregations of Orange ladybirds (at High Beach, Theydon and Epsom Common) have been in March or November. They form clusters of up to a hundred in fissures of trunks or under branches (picture). During mid-winter these clusters disappear and the animals can be found in the leaf litter or (as in Epping Forest) huddled together within empty beechnut shells. Recent records show an interesting host preference: most records north of the Thames are on old beech trees, south of the Thames, on ash. It can be confused with no species except immature Cream-spots. Photograph © Gill & Keith Walker
Twenty-two-spot ladybird Psyllobora (Thea) vigintiduopunctata
This is the brightest of the yellow British ladybirds. It always has twenty-two spots. These may vary in size but only rarely join up (as in the individual illustrated).
The 22-spot is unusual amongst ladybirds in that it eats fungi (mildew) on the soil surface or on low plants.
Fourteen-spot ladybird Propylea quattuordecimpunctata
This is a fairly common ladybird (especially in the English Midlands). It always has a darkened midline and its 'spots' are usually quite square. There may be fourteen distinct, small spots but these are variable and may enlarge and join up. The spots may eventually become so large that the ladybird appears to be black with a few yellow spots. There is always a black mark down the midline. (More Pictures)
Sixteen-spot ladybird Tytthaspis (Micraspis) sedecimpunctata
This distinctive small (3mms) ladybird is found usually in semi-natural grassland, particularly hedgerows - seldom in gardens. It has the occasional habit of aggregating in large numbers in the Autumn. Richard Jones estimated one aggregation in south-east London to contain more than a million individuals.
Like the 14-spot, there is always a darkened midline and some spots may join up; however, its size, paler colour and rounded spots easily distinguish this from the 14-spot.
Photograph © Ian Menzies
Bryony ladybird Henosepilachna (Epilachna) argus
The most recent addition to the British list of ladybirds, this was discovered during 1997 at Molesey by Ian Menzies' grand-daughter, Alysia. It has subsequently spread over north Surrey, crossing the Thames in 2000 to Hampton Court and westward to Staines in 2001. Unlike most ladybirds it is phytophagous (vegetarian - eating leaves) living, from all observations, on White Bryony although it is often seen on other plants. It is closely related to the smaller 24-spot ladybird (which eats grasses and other plants): all-red apart from their spots and somewhat dull due to small hairs visible under a hand lens. It is relatively large, around 7mms.. Photograph © Ian Menzies
Twenty-four-spot ladybird Subcoccinella vigintiquattuorpunctata
The most common British vegetarian ladybird. It is much smaller (3-4 mms) than the Bryony ladybird and feeds on various plants including false-oat grass. It can be very numerous on semi-natural grassland. It is unusual amongst ladybirds of Britain in that it seldom has wings. It is very variable in the size and number of its spots - rarely, individuals are seen which have no spots. Apart from the black spots, the animal is all red and dull due to a covering of fine hairs.
Thirteen-spot ladybird Hippodamia tredecimguttata
This species had not been seen in Britain for many decades (fifty years ago in Hastings) and may never have been resident. However it has recently been reported from marsh in the west country (More pictures)
Photograph © Dr Steve Marshall
Five-spot ladybird Coccinella quinquepunctata
This species is (probably) not seen in south-east England. In Britain it is only found on the shingle edges of some Welsh and Scottish river estuaries; however, in Europe it is more widespread (this specimen from the Camargue).
Illustrations at www.koleopterologie.de and www.insektenbox.de
These smaller or unusually shaped species of the Coccinellidae are not obviously ladybirds. At least one species, Rhyzobius litura, is common and abundant. There are probably other residents awaiting discovery!
Small brown ladybird Rhyzobius (Rhizobius) litura
This is probably one of the most common British coccinellids but is not often seen or recognised by most observers. It is small without much pattern (commonly three indistinct spots on each elytron (wing case) and dull, due to small hairs all over the surface. Like other small coccinellids, it has quite long antennae. It is found amongst dense patches of various plants.
A related species, Rhyzobius chrysomeloides, has been discovered in recent years and is established in Surrey. The species are not easy to distinguish although R. chrysomeloides seems to prefer trees.
Photograph © David Element
This small, somewhat hairy coccinellid is rarely found but is probably more common than thought - it has been found at Gillespie Fields in Islington. It is associated with ants, such as the common black garden ant, Lasius niger, which do not attack it and probably tend it.
This small coccinellid (< 3mms) has become particularly common on ivy: this individual was found by Dr Ian Menzies on the same garden ivy where the Bryony ladybird was first discovered. It probably preys on scale insects and mealybugs. It has increased in range an abundance over the last decade.
The related species, N. redtenbacheri, is more widely distributed in Britain with a large red spot on each wing-case (to middle or rear).
Photograph © Ian Menzies
This tiny (1.2 to 1.5 mm long) coccinellid is distinguished by the horseshoe-shaped marking on its elytra; however the extent and colouring of the horseshoe is quite variable (another form).
In Europe this is thought to feed on whitefly. It has been found especially on ivy but also on Viburnum and honeysuckle. Ian Menzies has been finding it more than usual during 2005 on ivy in Surrey.
Photograph © Ian Menzies
The two British species (Coccidula rufa & C. scutellata) are moderately large (around 3 mm) but not easily recognised as 'ladybirds': they have quite elongated bodies and long antennae (unlike any typical British ladybird).
Drawings of C. rufa & C. scutellata at http://www.entu.cas.cz/nedved/cocc/ct_cdul.gif
Photograph © Ian Menzies
Photos at http://www.koleopterologie.de/gallery/fhl07/coccinula-14pustulata-foto-koehler.html and http://www.insektenbox.de/kaefer/coccqu.htm
Photograph at http://www.koleopterologie.de/gallery/fhl07/scymnus-frontalis-foto-koehler.html
There are many other species of ladybird in Europe which can arrive naturally in Britain - like the Bryony ladybird, they may become naturalised. Cynegetis impunctata, Calvia decempuncta and Oenopia conglobata are perhaps the most likely to turn up in Britain. Other ladybirds are introduced accidentally from further afield. Another group are intentionally introduced as biological pest control agents.
This American (primarily from South America - Argentina, Brazil, Peru etc.) ladybird was found in grapes in Middlesex in 2001. This is probably the second British record, No picture yet but it is illustrated on http://vidal.med.puc.cl/coleoptera/ErioConnexa.html which illustrates some of the beetles of Chile.
This ladybird was encountered by Keir Mottram on Boxing day, 2001. Others have subsequently been found in various parts of the country- probably coming out of South African grapes. Since its normal habitat is in central to southern Africa, it and its related species are not likely to colonise the British Isles until global warming has progressed much further. It is large (around 6,5 mm). (More pictures and the genus Cheilomenes)
Cryptolaemus montrouzieri - The mealybug slayer has been used in Britain for indoor control of mealybugs. However, Halstead recorded it overwintering at Wisley: the colony did not survive but, with climate change ("global warming"), this, and other control agents, might establish outdoors in the British Isles. One was found by Peter Hodge in Chelsea during 2004. It is a distinctive blue-black colour with chestnut brown at either end! (Close-up )(larva © Peter Chew)
Vedalia beetle Rodolia cardinalis
Recently (2003) found in Chelsea. This ladybird was the first to be used successfully for biological control (of the cottony cushion scale on citrus trees in California. What is surprising is that it has not been seen in Britain before - it is common over southern Europe (this individual was on a street shrub in Avignon) but will it overwinter in Britain? PS: not found during 2004 apparently. (more pictures)
Singular ladybird Rhyzobius lopanthae
A single specimen was found by Derek Coleman on an ash tree in Morden Park on April 1st 1999 - the Surrey name is the April Fools ladybird! This species is widely used for control of hard scales on trees and was, for instance, imported to Italy in 1908. It is unlikely to survive British winters. The species has an all black hindbody (velvety because of hairs) and brown thorax with the long antennae of all Rhyzobius.
Numerous ladybirds are found on the European mainland which have not established in the British Isles. Michael Majerus suggested two species as especially likely to arrive and colonise Britain. These are Cynegetis impunctata (see below) and Oenopia conglobata. The illustration is from Belgium. Most species of Oenopia have markings which wave across the body. O. conglobata has three wavy/comma-shaped marks on each elytron as well as two distinct spots. (more pictures) Photograph © Frans Vandemaele
This is related to the cream-spot ladybird and similar to it although only having ten spots. This had not been found in Britain (old record from 19C) although now quite common in NW Europe and it was found in Killarney in 1927. kralingen contains photographs from a park in the Netherlands. It is often found along with Orange ladybirds. It could be confused with the decempustulata form of the 10-spot.
Photograph © Kees van der Krieke
This species is all red (fore- and hind-body) with no spots. It can be confused with no British species except for a rare variant of the 24-spot ladybird which also has no spots! Like the 24-spot, it is vegetarian, eating grass. It is not common in NW Europe although Michael Majerus noted it around the French entrance of the Channel Tunnel.
Photograph © Frank Köhler. More on the Koleopterologie site.
This is one of the most common ladybirds in the United States and has been proposed for biological control in Europe. It has a pinkish hue and, usually, large spots.
Photograph © Dr John Haarstad
Convergent lady beetle Hippodamia convergens
Another common American ladybird which has been suggested for use in Europe. It should be noted that the formerly common American species may be in decline, probably as a result of competition with imported species (the 7-spot from Europe and the Multivariate Lady Beetle from Asia (see below)). It gets its name from the two distinctive lines on its forebody (pronotum).
Photograph © Dr John Haarstad
Multivariate, Multicolored or Southern lady beetle Harmonia axyridis
This vary variable ladybird has been introduced into the United States where it has prospered. Vast numbers are now often found which may cause a nuisance by entering peoples' homes over the winter. It is now widespread in NW Europe with first British sightings in Summer 2004 (More pictures) (Many-named menace page)
Photograph © Washington State University
Mexican bean beetle Epilachna varivestris
The genus Epilachna (related to the Bryony ladybird, above) consists of phytophages (plant-eaters) and contains the only pest species amongst the ladybirds. The Mexican beetle is the worst pest but is unlikely to establish in Britain unless the climate gets much warmer!
Photograph © Dr. Steve Marshall
This looks like a small form of the Orange ladybird with twelve spots. It was recorded in 1905 from Wychwood, Oxfordshire. Elsewhere in NW Europe it is still quite rare in ancient woodlands. The Orange ladybird occasionally has twelve spots and other species (e.g. Calvia) can look very similar - if you find an orange ladybird with twelve white/cream patches send it to me or your local entomologist.
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Last modified 17/iii/2006