Continuing this year’s quest to find and record ladybirds across the North East, back at the end of March I popped up to Rothbury in search of the elusive Heather Ladybird (Chilocorus bipustulatus). This is a species which should, theoretically, be incredibly numerous up here given the abundance of Heather but despite this, there is only one previous local record – an unconfirmed sighting near Rothbury in 1984.
Fast forward somewhat and after an hour of shaking old clumps of Heather – this species apparently has a penchant for woody plants – I was delighted to find not one but two ladybirds sitting in the bottom of my net. Success!
Superficially similar to its close cousin, the far more abundant Kidney-spot Ladybird, this species boasts a series of horizontal splodges as opposed to the distinct circular spots of the latter. Like its relative, it is specialised to feed on scale insects in contrast to the aphids consumed by familiar ladybirds such as the 7-Spot.
Popping back to Rothbury in early April to explore some outlying squares, I encountered Heather Ladybird again, this time head-height in the branches of a young Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris). This individual made for much better viewing and the pictures are certainly better absent the usual sweep net detritus.
This cryptic little ladybird simply must be more widespread in Northumberland. Known now from Rothbury, Dipton Woods and more unusually, the coast at Howick, there have got to be more sites out there to be discovered. I’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on Heather during future walks in the uplands…