For me, ladybirds have been a real theme of 2022. Fresh from twelve months of ladybird recording, here’s a quick round-up of this year’s highlights.
This is the one that really made me stop and think, and the ladybird which helped launch a year’s worth of frantic recording. Chatting with local recorder, Chris Barlow, back in early 2022, we noticed that records of Heather Ladybird were few and far between in Northumberland. Rather bizarre really given the wealth of heather-clad sites in our area. Indeed, the last accepted record of Heather Ladybird was one near Rothbury back in the 1980s.
Feeling somewhat inspired, back in March, I set out to Rothbury to explore an area of suitable habitat on the slopes above the town. Checking overwintering sites among more mature, rank Heather plants, it wasn’t long before several ladybirds were discovered. Success!
Future visits to Rothbury have yielded Heather Ladybirds in several squares while others have found it at several other local sites. Definitely a case of under-recorded, as opposed to genuinely rare.
Water Ladybird is a species that thanks to NHSN’s North East Ladybird Spot, started appearing at more and more local sites during 2021. Not because it was colonising these sites, but because more people began looking for it. I certainly found it at a surprising number of locations towards the back end of the year.
Continuing the search in 2022, I’ve encountered this species at several new sites locally, including a rather bizarre record on salt marsh at Holywell Dene. Small ponds, riversides, and ditches, they don’t seem all that picky and with a bit of practice, are quite easy to find among the stems of Bulrush and Common Reed.
The map for Water Ladybird has changed remarkably in Northumberland this year thanks to the hard work of citizen scientists. I’d call that a success story…
Another local success story now, and back in early 2022, I was delighted to find what appeared to be the first Cream-streaked Ladybird for Tyneside and wider South Northumberland. A relatively new UK ladybird, this species is spreading and had already been recorded further North in Scotland. Really, a sighting here was somewhat overdue.
Found on a gravestone is Jesmond Old Cemetery – that place again – it was actually quite tricky to pick this ladybird out from the similarly sized and far more numerous Harlequins in the area. One spot in line one as opposed to two, I must remember that.
Since this encounter, local naturalists have found Cream-streaked Ladybird at several more sites within Newcastle. It is yet to be spotted further afield but must be there somewhere.
Probably the biggest surprise of 2022 came in the form of my first-ever encounter with a Hieroglyphic Ladybird. Having looked for this species unsuccessfully several times in the uplands, it came as quite a shock to find the melanistic individual below during a guided walk on the coast at Newbiggin. Definitely a “what are the chances of that” sort of moment and one made all the more entertaining by the colour form in question. Surely the black sort must be far scarcer? At least you’d think…
Until last year, Striped Ladybird was perhaps my most sought-after British insect. When I finally encountered it at Havannah Nature Reserve in late 2021, after months of trying and plenty of tree bashing, I was chuffed. Elated even.
Fast forward to the end of 2022 and this species seems to be cropping up everywhere. Not just in larger areas of coniferous woodland but within isolated pines in car parks, cemeteries, and even those growing by the side of the busy A1. Heck, I even found one sitting on a fence post behind my local Sainsbury’s here in Heaton. All of this leads me to suspect that they are a little more widespread than the maps suggest…
A rather pleasant surprise now and while leading a walk for a group of visitors at NHSN’s Gosforth Nature Reserve this autumn, a brief pitstop to look for Water Ladybird turned up a whopping great surprise in the form of Coccidula scutellata. Recorded only once before in Northumberland and never in VC67, this was one species I thought had to turn up eventually but still, it was a surprise to find it at what is just about the most ‘ladybirded’ site in the North East.
As far as inconspicuous ladybirds go, this one is also quite the beauty…
Perhaps the ladybird discovery of the year now and looking at the maps for Rhyzobius chrysomeloides, you would be forgiven for thinking they are found exclusively in more Southerly counties. Indeed, until this year, the most Northerly record of this species came from the Lancaster area. You can imagine my surprise then when several of these lovely little ladybirds fell out of a planted Dwarf Mountain Pine at Silverlink Biodiversity Park back in April. A very nice record indeed but as I shared more on this at the time, I’ll stop there.
All the lovely people
Whether heading out with my partner, friends or attendees at several events, courses, and trips, ladybird hunting this year has been a wonderfully collective affair. As someone who spends most of their time recording alone (such is the way of the naturalist) it has been lovely to share some of the discoveries above with others and to share knowledge and a few laughs in a host of lovely locations. The below photos are just a few of those taken this year – a big thank you to everyone who came along in 2022.
Exciting things to come
Despite my main interest lying in plants, it seems my love of ladybirds isn’t going away any time soon. I’m not entirely sure what it is about them I like so much but finding, recording, and above all else, enjoying them has become more than a favourite pastime. For this reason, over the next year, you’ll see me offering lots more ladybird-themed events, walks, and courses with NHSN. I hope some of you may consider coming along.
I am delighted (and a little terrified) to now also volunteer my time as a County Recorder for the fabulous UK Ladybird Survey – the national scheme monitoring our ladybirds. If you share sightings via iRecord, you’ll find me there verifying finds from Durham and Northumberland and getting very excited at all of your spotty discoveries.