A true beauty, the 18-Spot Ladybird is a reasonably small but attractive ladybird associated with conifers, especially Scots Pine. Measuring in at 4-5mm, the colour of the wing cases is a rich brown, fairly similar to the more abundant Cream-spot Ladybird. However, the latter species tends to be darker and quite a bit larger.
Atop maroon wing cases, the 18-Spot Ladybird sports many white spots, the two nearest the pronotum often taking on somewhat of a crescent shape. The best way to identify this species is by the pronotum itself which displays a brown ‘M’ shape not found in other species.
What does the 18-Spot Ladybird eat?
Another aphid-feeding species, this ladybird specialises in the aphid species found on conifers such as the impressive Cinara pinea.
A conifer specialist, the 18-Spot Ladybird is invariably found in close proximity to pines. Many sources state a preference for Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and where mature trees are present, this species can be particularly numerous. I have had good luck finding this species in woodland edge habitats, pine-rich heathland, and even in isolated pines in urban environments. It does not appear to need extensive areas of habitat. Whereas this species clearly favours Scots Pine, I have also found it on Black Pine (Pinus nigra).
How to find them
This can be a difficult ladybird to find. Given their tendency to remain in the canopy, it is not a species you bump into at random. Tree beating is the best way to encounter this species, particularly when focused on older, taller pine trees. This is not a species I find often in conifer saplings and generally, the more mature the tree, the more luck you’ll have.
Finding 18-Spot Ladybird in winter
Like other conifer ladybirds, this species overwinters on or around its host tree. Many sources state that it prefers cracks within bark, though only once have I found this species here, perhaps unsurprisingly. Instead, I have had the most luck finding his species around the cones or branch tips of conifers. Like many species, the 18-Spot Ladybird will also overwinter on man-made structures if placed near conifers.
Status in the UK
At the time of writing this, there are only 1,839 records of this specialist ladybird held on NBN. This is a low number for a striking and easy to identify species but of course, may represent the difficulty associated with finding them.
This species appears much more abundant in the South of the UK, with notable concentrations of records around London and along the Welsh border. Sightings grow scarce in the North of England and surprisingly given the abundance of pines there, it is scarce in Scotland. It has been recorded infrequently in Ireland. See NBN for more information.
Status in the North East
This is a rare ladybird in North East England, though one which is cropping up with increasing frequency. Records of 18-Spot Ladybird are infrequent but widespread in Tyneside with a particular concentration around Newcastle. It has also been recorded from more remote areas of South Northumberland (VC67) and three times to date in County Durham. So far, it has not been found in North Northumberland (VC68).
Where I’ve recorded the 18-Spot Ladybird
To date, I have recorded this ladybird at several sites around Newcastle and am increasingly encountering it North along the A1 into South Northumberland. Elsewhere, I have encountered it at Prudhoe.