Recording North East ladybirds: twenty-six species and counting

Inspired by the Natural History Society of Northumbria’s North East Ladybird Spot and the #LadybirdYearList challenge launched on Twitter by Andrew Jewels, this year I’ve been dedicating quite a bit of time to finding and recording the North East’s ladybirds.

A group I had previously ignored bar the odd encounter with some of the more common species, the entire process of seeking out these colourful little beetles has proven thoroughly addictive and so far, I’ve managed c250 records of 26 species across the region in habitats that range from city cemeteries to agricultural fields and upland moors.

The sheer diversity of ladybirds out there to be discovered is nothing short of mindblowing and with the North East seemingly poorly recorded, there seems to be a great deal still to be discovered. With that in mind, here’s a short run-down of the species encountered in 2022 with a little information on where they were found.

1# Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)

First recorded: 21 January, Jesmond Cemetery

Found by: searching gravestones, beating conifers, visually on broadleaf trees, Buddleia, bramble etc.

Probably the most conspicuous ladybird in Newcastle, it was inevitable that Harlequin Ladybird would be the first encountered. Sure enough, on my first visit of the year to Jesmond Old Cemetery, many hundreds of these variable invaders were found overwintering on headstones. Here, colour forms on display included succinea, spectabilis and conspicua, with some ladybirds even having no spots at all.

Since January, I’ve recorded these large ladybirds at just about every site I’ve visited within the city limits but so far, have failed to find any at all while walking in the wider countryside, or in towns further North where they seem altogether scarcer.

2# 2-Spot Ladybird (Adalia bipunctata)

First recorded: 21 January, Jesmond Cemetery

Found by: searching gravestones; visually on grasses, Buddleia, Euonymus, Oxford Ragwort etc.

Less numerous than the Harlequins but still present in good numbers, the same visit to Jesmond Old Cemetery also yielded a number of 2-Spot Ladybirds. Again, tucked up on a multitude of gravestones across the site.

Since this initial sighting, I have found this species in a multitude of cemeteries across Tyneside and more recently, have begun to notice them out and about on vegetation. Interestingly, non-native Buddleja davidii seems to be a popular hangout for this species locally, though I’ve also spotted a couple on Euonymus and Scots Pine. So far, I haven’t found a single 2-Spot outside of the city!

2-Spot Ladybird remains fairly common in the North East, despite wide-ranging declines nationally. Perhaps this will change as the Harlequin further consolidates its range here?

3# Orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata)

First recorded: 21 January, Jesmond Cemetery

Found by: searching gravestones; beating Scots Pine, English Oak and Ivy.

Another from 21 January now and ever obvious owing to their bright colour, Jesmond Old Cemetery also held a few Orange Ladybird. While plentiful, these were nowhere near as numerous as at other cemeteries visited through January and February with many hundreds at Preston Cemetery, in North Shields, in particular.

An increasingly common species in the city, these have been one of the most numerous ladybirds encountered this year to date and I’ve had good luck finding them by beating Sycamore, Ivy and Scots Pine, both in urban areas and out in a more rural setting.

4# Pine Ladybird (Exochomus quadripustulatus)

First recorded: 21 January, Jesmond Cemetery

Found by: searching gravestones; beating Scots Pine, Norway Spruce and Gorse; visually on Ash trunks.

The final species found on my initial visit to Jesmond Old Cemetery was the Pine Ladybird. One of the most numerous ladybirds to be found at inner-city cemeteries, these too have a handy habit of overwintering on gravestones. By early March, more were seen at a variety of sites as they congregated on the trunks of Ash and Scots Pine to begin breeding.

Elsewhere in the city, I’ve had good luck finding this species by beating Scots Pine at Havannah, Gosforth Nature Reserve and Prudhoe and by checking planted Norway Spruce at Stocksfield. A few individuals were found on Gorse at those sites too.

Again, this is another species that seems to fizzle out the further away from Newcastle I get. An odd observation given their status as a supposedly common and abundant ladybird!

#5 7-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)

First recorded: 22 January, Havannah Nature Reserve

Found by: beating Gorse and conifers in winter; just about everywhere come spring.

Seldom seen on gravestones, my first 7-Spot Ladybird of the year was found by beating Gorse at Havannah Nature Reserve. This initial individual was quickly followed by many more as Gorse and Scots Pine were checked at other local sites.

At the time of writing this (in late May) 7-Spot Ladybirds are appearing just about everywhere befitting their status as one of Britain’s most common ladybirds. They require little introduction and apparently, are far from picky.

#6 Cream-Spot Ladybird (Calvia quatuordecimguttata)

First recorded: 22 January, Jesmond Cemetery

Found by: searching gravestones; beating broadleaf and coniferous trees; visually on Gooseberry, willow etc.

Rarely numerous but apparently rather widespread, Cream-Spot Ladybird is a funny species. Some days, it can take quite a bit of searching to find one and on others, they’re virtually falling from trees.

My first Cream-Spot Ladybird of the year was found again at Jesmond Old Cemetery with further sightings throughout Winter at a good number of cemeteries across Newcastle and the surrounding area. Since then, further individuals have been encountered by beating Ivy, Scots Pine and planted Dwarf Mountain Pine. Others were found by visual searches of Goat Willow and Gooseberry.

In early May, one was even discovered on a Newcastle University minibus during an outing to Allen Banks!

#7 10-Spot Ladybird (Adalia decempunctata)

First recorded: 22 January, Jesmond Cemetery

Found by: searching gravestones; beating broadleaf and coniferous trees; sweep netting grassland; visually on Euonymus.

Concluding what I would describe as the ‘routine bunch’ of ladybirds easily found in the city, 10-Spot Ladybird came next with good numbers discovered in Jesmond Cemetery. The striking decempustulata form shown below was observed here too.

Interestingly, moving into Spring and early-Summer, this species has become one of the most frequently encountered species on walks across the region, found everywhere from mature woodland and coastal dunes to conifer plantations and urban gardens.

#9 Water Ladybird (Anisosticta novemdecimpunctata)

First recorded: 23 January, Gosforth Nature Reserve

Found by: searching the leaf sheaths of Bulrush and Common Reed; within Gorse close to water; sweep netting marginal vegetation.

Having observed my first in 2021, searching for Water Ladybirds has become somewhat of an addiction. Finding the year’s first at Gosforth Nature Reserve on 23 January, I’ve since observed this species at a number of new sites in and around Newcastle, including Woolsington Pond, Newburn and Silverlink Biodiversity Park.

On most occasions, this species has been found by searching the leaf sheaths of Bulrush and Common Reed, or by sweep-netting waterside vegetation. More unusually, a single Water Ladybird was also found while beating Gorse – a rather odd choice of wintering site for a riparian species.

#9 Red Marsh Ladybird (Coccidula rufa)

First recorded: 24 January, Iris Brickfield Park

Found by: beating Scots Pine; searching the leaf sheaths of Bulrush and by sweep netting marginal grasses.

The first of the inconspicuous ladybirds spotted this year and, according to the books, one of the easiest to find. Usually by sweep netting waterside plants such as sedges and rushes. Found a fair distance from the nearest pond, the individual shown below was actually discovered by beating Scots Pine in search of some of the larger conspicuous species and as such, caused a small amount of confusion.

Fast forward to April and May, and further individuals were found in much more traditional settings around ponds at Havannah Nature Reserve and Woolsington. Further sites have been searched too, of course, but to little success. Contrary to the literature, I find Coccidula rufa surprisingly hard to find!

10# Kidney-spot Ladybird (Chilocorus renipustulatus)

First recorded: 27 January, Rising Sun Country Park

Found by: beating pine and by searching the trunks of Ash on sunnier days.

Kidney-spot Ladybirds seem to have been easier to find this year; though whether this is due to abundance or simply knowing where to look, I am unsure. Finding my first on Lodgepole Pine, others have since been discovered by searching the trunks of semi-mature Ash trees on warmer days, both at Gosforth Nature Reserve and further North at Rothbury.

#11 Striped Ladybird (Myzia oblongoguttata)

First recorded: 6 February, Havannah Nature Reserve

Found by: beating the lower branches of mature Scots Pines, also within Gorse close to Scots Pine.

The first of this year’s exciting ladybirds, I first observed this exquisite conifer specialist by searching Scots Pines at Havannah Nature Reserve. Proving particularly good for this species, I’ve since found them here on a total of six visits, including a surprise encounter with the unusual melanistic form shown below.

Struggling to find this species away from Havannah, my only other encounter to date came from Gosforth Nature Reserve in the aftermath of our late winter storms where a single ladybird was found low-down on Gorse. Albeit in close proximity to a stand of pines from which it may well have been blown.

#12 22-spot Ladybird (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctataoguttata)

First recorded: 17 February, Iris Brickfield Park

Found by: overwintering within Stinking Iris and Gorse, and by sweep netting grasses, Hogweed and other plants.

I do love these! A fairly abundant species of verges and other rank areas, my first 22-Spot Ladybirds of the year were found sheltering within a stand of Stinking Iris in my local park.

Fast forward to spring and more still have been encountered by sweep netting Hogweed at a multitude of sites around Newcastle. A few individuals were also found by searching Gorse and other shrubs such as Euonymus and Dogwood.

13# Adonis’ Ladybird (Hippodamia variegata)

First recorded: 19 February, Havannah Nature Reserve

Found by: sweep netting grasses; on heather and gorse in open settings; by beating Scots Pine.

A scarce ladybird associated with grassland on dry, calcareous soils, Adonis’ Ladybird can be a tricky species to find locally. My first encounter of the year came with two individuals found within Gorse at Havannah Nature Reserve. Later, another individual was found overwintering on ornamental Black Pine at Jesmond Cemetery – a somewhat surprising location given this species’ preference for brownfield, heath and coastal settings.

14# 18-Spot Ladybird (Myrrha octodecimguttata)

First recorded: 16 February, Jesmond Cemetery

Found by: overwintering on gravestones near to pinus species and by beating of immature Scots Pine.

A rare or at least under-recorded ladybird in the North East, I hadn’t seen this striking conifer specialist at all until this year. During an event at Jesmond Cemetery, it was therefore incredibly exciting to discover a wintering aggregation of this species on a gravestone beneath the same Black Pine that also held the Adonis’ Ladybird shown above.

Despite searching a surplus of conifers during visits to a whole manner of sites this year, so far I have only succeeded in finding this species at one additional site. This being Havannah Nature Reserve where a single individual was encountered, somewhat unsurprisingly, by beating Scots Pine.

#15 Cream-streaked Ladybird (Harmonia quadripunctata)

First recorded: 26 February, Jesmond Cemetery

Found by: overwintering on gravestones close to Black Pine; by beating Scots Pine and ornamental species.

Virtually unknown in the North East prior to 2022, it came as quite a surprise to find my first Cream-streaked Ladybird at Jesmond Cemetery on 26 February. Again, by beating the same Black Pine that also held 18-Spot and Adonis’ Ladybird. This is quickly becoming my favourite tree…

A new arrival to the UK, this species is currently expanding its range northward and does not yet seem established up here to the same extent as in Southern England. That said, encounters with this species at Walker and Benton later in Spring suggest that it may be more abundant than previously thought.

16# Eyed Ladybird (Anatis ocellata)

First recorded: 5 March, Benton Cemetery

Found by: searching gravestones in close proximity to ornamental Black Pine.

The UK’s largest ladybird, this species appears to be rather hit and miss, even while searching seemingly perfect, pine-rich sites. So far this year, I have only succeeded in finding Eyed Ladybirds at a single site – Benton Cemetery – where multiple individuals were seen at rest on gravestones in close proximity to Black Pine.

17# Larch Ladybird (Aphidecta obliterata)

First recorded: 5 March, Gosforth Nature Reserve

Found by: beating Scots Pine, Norway Spruce, Sitka Spruce and European Larch. Also overwintering within Gorse.

A ladybird which took a frustratingly long time to find, now that I know where and how to look, I’ve found Larch Ladybird to be fairly abundant at a good number of local sites. Finding my first on Sitka Spruce, I’ve also had good luck finding these muted but beautiful insects by beating Scots Pine, European Larch and Norway Spruce.

Larger conifer plantations seem to be the best place to search for this ladybird though isolated conifers within broadleaf woodland have also proven productive with this species also encountered on lone trees at Allen Banks, Stocksfield and Riding Mill.

18# Pine Scymnus (Scymnus suturalis)

First recorded: 13 March, Benton Cemetery

Found by: beating Scots Pine, both within woodland and where isolated trees grow in other settings.

Owing to a scarcity of local records, I had assumed that this inconspicuous ladybird would be difficult to find in my local area. So much so, that I actually twitched one found by another local recorder in Benton Cemetery on 13 March. Oh, how wrong I was…

Fast forward to early summer and I have since encountered this species at a total of nine sites, invariably by searching young Scots Pines. Isolated trees seem to yield good results when searching for this species, as seen at Rothbury, yet the best place to check appears to be the sunnier edges of shelterbelts, plantations and other areas rich in Scots Pine. I am yet to find Scymnus suturalis on any of the non-native or ornamental conifers.

19# Black Scymnus (Scymnus nigrinus)

First recorded: 20 March, Havannah Nature Reserve

Found by: scrutinising bark crevices on an immature Scots Pine.

Another unashamed ladybird twitch now and upon hearing that local recorder, Chris Barlow, had discovered a population of this elusive inconspicuous ladybird on an isolated Scots Pine at Havannah Nature Reserve, it would have been rude not to take a look.

Spending quite a bit of time beating conifers, I have looked for my own Scymnus nigrinus since to no avail. Perhaps unsurprising given how few records of this species there are both in the North East and across the wider UK.

20# Heather Ladybird (Chilocorus bipustulatus)

First recorded: 25 March, Rothbury

Found by: beating particularly old and gnarly Heather plants; visually searching Scots Pine growing near Heather.

Perhaps the ladybird highlight of the year so far! Looking at the NBN Atlas back in March, there appeared to be no confirmed records of Heather Ladybird at all in the North East excluding an unconfirmed 1980’s sighting near Rothbury. Strange, given our surplus of moorland!

Setting off for the hills above Rothbury, I was therefore delighted to find multiple Heather Ladybirds by searching old Heather plants, as stated in the resources. Visual searching yielded no results at all (they’re surprisingly hard to see) but shaking plants over a sweep net seems to work well.

On a further visit to a nearby square, I was pleased to find this species again. Only this time, halfway up the trunk of a Scots Pine.

21# Meadow Ladybird (Rhyzobius litura)

First recorded: 26 March, Bedlington

Found by: searching tussock of Cock’s-foot and other grasses in winter; sweep netting grasses and Common Knapweed later in the year.

The only inconspicuous ladybird I’d found on more than one occasion before 2022, my first Meadow Ladybirds were discovered by sweep netting tussocks within rough grassland at Bedlington.

While they can take a bit of finding, I am inclined to agree with the online resources that state this species to be one of our commonest ladybirds. Indeed, when I have taken the time to look, they have been found at most of my frequently visited grassland sites, from Newburn to Newbiggin.

22# 11-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella undecimpunctata)

First recorded: 8 April, Alnmouth

Found by: beating Gorse growing on the coast

These ladybirds seem to be rather elusive. To date, the only individual found this year was discovered by beating a stand of Gorse close to the shore at Alnmouth in VC68. Despite a surplus of Gorse elsewhere on the Northumberland coast, further searches have so far yielded nothing at all.

In 2021, I had some luck finding this species by sweep netting coastal grassland, as well as what might have been a fluke encounter while searching heathland at Thropton. Hopefully, I’ll stumble across a few more before year’s end…

23# 24-Spot Ladybird (Subcoccinella vigintiquatuorpunctata)

First recorded: 10 April, Blyth

Found by: searching tussock in winter; sweep netting grasses and herbaceous vegetation with grassland and arable margins.

Another species which appears quite scarce ‘up here’ the 24-Spot Ladybird is a grassland species through and through. Finding my first back in April by searching a seemingly unassuming tussock of Cock’s-foot, I’ve since had good luck searching for this species at a number of local sites. Not least, along the margins of arable fields where some 25+ individuals were found on a single walk close to Stocksfield.

24# Epaulet Ladybird (Rhyzobius chrysomeloides)

First recorded: 17 April, Silverlink

Found by: beating ornamental conifers including Dwarf Mountain Pine and Black Pine.

Perhaps the most surprising and exciting find of the year so far was the discovery of a population of inconspicuous ladybird, Rhyzobius chrysomeloides, at Silverlink Industrial Estate in North Tyneside.

A predominately Southern species found as far North as Lancaster, this initial record represents a fair old leap Northward for this tiny yet beautiful ladybird and this encounter certainly wasn’t anticipated. With further visits to the site yielding further records in new squares, and a new population springing up at Newburn, it seems these little insects could actually be rather widespread locally. I wonder where else they could be hiding?

25# 14-Spot Ladybird (Propylea quatuordecimpunctata)

First recorded: 13 May, Silverlink

Found by: sweep netting herbaceous vegetation including bramble, nettle, dock and Common Knapweed.

Usually, one of the commonest ladybirds in the local area owing to a broad love of grassland, verges, fields and scrubby places, I actually struggled somewhat to find 14-Spot Ladybird at the start of the season. Regularly sweeping areas of suitable habitat, it wasn’t until 13 May that I finally stumbled across one at Silverlink Biodiversity Park.

One of the last ladybird species to appear each year, things have thankfully changed over the past few weeks with these striking yellow ladybirds since found at a good number of local sites.

26# Hieroglyphic Ladybird (Coccinella hieroglyphica)

First recorded: 20 May, Newbiggin

Found by: searching coastal grasses

A real surprise on a recent trip to Newbiggin, the sight of a small, black ladybird perched atop a stand of coastal grasses initially had me thinking of an odd 10-Spot Ladybird. Finding it a tad unusual, I eventually took a closer look and nabbed a few photos – the suspect ladybird soon revealed to be the melanistic form of the Hieroglyphic Ladybird!

A heathland species associated with mature Heather plants, looking at NBN, it would seem that this ladybird does crop up away from the uplands from time to time. With a couple of unconfirmed records in the Northumbrian hills, this would appear to be the first confirmed record for South Northumberland (VC67).

Leave a Reply