Ladybirds in Newcastle

Keen to further explore Newcastle’s ladybirds as part of the North East Ladybird Spot, last weekend I set off for two local sites that I seldom visit. The first, Newcastle’s Great Park, a new suburb of the city located four miles from the city centre, and the second, the well-known Havannah Nature Reserve near Dinnington.

Arriving at the Great Park, I soon set off for the series of small, well-vegetated pools situated close to the sprawling housing estate. With the margins here chock-full of Bulrush, Common Reed and an assortment of sedges, it looked like a great spot to finally catch up with one of the North East’s scarcer conspicuous ladybirds: the Water Ladybird. Sweeping the margins here, it wasn’t long before I encountered my first – the insect in question now beige in colour, as opposed to red, as is the norm later in the year.

During an hour-long search of the pools, a further six Water Ladybirds were found, though each was difficult to find and spotting them absent aid of a net would have been a challenge, to say the least.

Opting for a poke about some nearby grassy areas, it was nice to find a variety of other ladybirds tucked away in various hidden corners. 7-spot Ladybirds were of course the most numerous, followed closely by the smaller 14-spot Ladybird. Several non-native Harlequin Ladybirds were also encountered disguised within the fading blooms of Wild Parsnip. On route home, a duo of 22-Spot Ladybirds were also good to see.

Whereas Water Ladybirds had been an ‘expected’ find at the Great Park, on this occasion, they found themselves eclipsed somewhat by another interesting discovery. Exploring the grassland close to the aforementioned pools, the rather small ladybird below was also noticed. Resembling at first a miniature 7-Spot Ladybird, it took a short while to identify this as Adonis’ Ladybird, a scarce species up North that seems especially fond of wasteland sites. A new species for me, no less!

Fast forward a day and on Sunday, Matt and I set off for Havannah Nature Reserve keen to build on the previous day’s bumper haul of ladybirds. We were not disappointed…

Starting out with a search of some of the lusher areas on site, it didn’t take long to find both of the small yellow ladybirds commonly associated with grassland. A single 22-Spot Ladybird was soon found, followed by a number of 14-Spots. 7-Spot Ladybird was encountered here too, this time sheltering among the browning seedheads of Common Knapweed.

It was only upon reaching the heathland area of the reserve when things picked up drastically. Here, the small conifers colonising the heath were crawling with ladybirds. Indeed, we counted over seventy individuals during an hour-long search and the diversity on show here was wonderful.

It didn’t take Matt long to find our first 2-Spot Ladybird of the day, while both 7-Spot and Harlequin Ladybirds were numerous. All noticeably tucked away among cones and buds in an effort to escape the weather. More interesting still was the presence of a good number of Pine Ladybirds, a species I haven’t recorded locally since April this year. Small, black and boasting a characteristic flange around the base of each elytron, it was great to see these in any sort of quantity.

A single 10-Spot Ladybird was also encountered here, though this was quickly forgotten as we caught sight of a rather chunky ladybird moving speedily up the trunk of a mature pine. Potting this for closer inspection, it was revealed to be Eyed Ladybird, our largest species of ladybird and a real beauty if that. A species strongly associated with pine and known to specialise in pine aphids, it was little surprise we encountered this striking species here.

Whilst the wetland habitats at Havannah are far more limited than those of the previous site, the good-sized pond here and the riparian vegetation surrounding it looked good for Water Ladybird. Perhaps slightly emboldened by our previous encounter, we soon set about searching and though it took far longer, were rewarded with a single Water Ladybird scooped on this occasion from Gypsywort.

This has been a year of firsts on the ladybird front. Perhaps I am simply paying closer attention, though whatever the reason, the species listed above join Kidney-Spot and 11-Spot Ladybirds, as well as the tiny Rhyzobius litura, to make 2021 a fantastic year thus far.

Time looks to be running out this year but I’ll definitely be setting my sights on other species likely to be encountered in the nearby area. Foremost among these, the eye-catching Striped Ladybird, though Larch and Hieroglyphic wouldn’t go amiss either.

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