Recently, I was delighted to discover a population of the inconspicuous ladybird, Rhyzobius chrysomeloides, in Tyneside.
Looking for ladybirds in the early part of this year has been great fun and already, it feels like I’m making some headway in tracking down a few of the ‘scarcer’ and more inconspicuous species to be found locally. Beating conifers for Cream-streaked Ladybird, sweeping grasses for Rhyzobius litura and perusing tussocks for 24-Spot Ladybird; it has all been fairly straightforward when following the notes contained within Helen Roy and Peter Brown’s fab book.
That said, there is clearly something to be said for looking in seemingly unusually places too – a row of ornamental Dwarf Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo) adorning a roadside in Silverlink Industrial Estate seemingly not the most obvious place to hunt for ladybirds. Opting to check the trees anyway, I was delighted last week to encounter not one but several Epaulet Ladybird (Rhyzobius chrysomeloides), a species I have read much about but hadn’t given much thought to given that it isn’t meant to occur in the North East.
A predominately Southern species found as far North as Lancaster, this little ladybird is particularly fond of evergreen trees and shrubs. I confess it does look very similar to the common Meadow Ladybird (Rhyzobius litura) but thankfully, a few of the individuals seen were very strongly marked and showed the distinct ‘shoulder-pads’ associated with this species. It has since been confirmed by inconspicuous ladybird recorder, Andrew Jewels.
There’s quite a distance between Lancaster and Tyneside so this sighting looks to mark quite an exciting range expansion for this tiny but rather interesting ladybird. Further visits to the site by other local naturalists have since revealed them in new squares and it seems they could be fairly widespread across Silverlink. Looking at the maps, who’d have thought?