22-Spot Ladybird

Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata

22-spot Ladybird at Havannah Nature Reserve, Newcastle
22-Spot Ladybird at Havannah Nature Reserve, Newcastle

Description

The brightest of the UK’s yellow ladybirds, the striking 22-Spot Ladybird is one of our most beautiful native species. In a pleasant change to the usual, variable nature of ladybirds, this species usually has exactly twenty-two spots, though these can vary rather substantially in size from small dots to large splotches.

Another small species comparable in size to the 24-Spot Ladybird, there are two distinct forms of this ladybird you are likely to encounter, one sporting a yellow pronotum, the other white.

What does the 22-Spot Ladybird eat?

The 22-Spot Ladybird is one of a select few ladybirds to feed entirely on mildew and can often be seen grazing the grey substance from the surface of leaves.

Habitat

This ladybird doesn’t seem overly picky in its choice of habitat and seems is found wherever rank vegetation grows. Rough grassland seems particularly popular with this species and roadside verges, waste ground and hedgerows are popular hangouts. I’ve also had luck finding this species in woodland, on heathland and within gardens, though less often than in the above habitats.

A mildew feeder, the 22-Spot Ladybird is fond of Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) and other umbellifers which can become covered in the stuff. Grasses too seem popular, as do younger trees and shrubs which seem similarly susceptible to mildew attack. Interestingly, I also find this species quite a lot on Common Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), though few sources discuss its value.

22-Spot Ladybirds found overwintering within Stinking Iris, Heaton, Newcastle

How to find them

A species which likes to remain concealed within vegetation, the 22-Spot Ladybird is most likely to be found through sweep-netting. Roadsides, path margins and woodland edge habitats where docks, umbellifers and Mugwort grow are great places to start.

Owing to their bright colouration, 22-Spot Ladybirds can be found via visual searches too. Looking closer at the leaves of Hogweed is a good option; though I have also found this species at rest on a range of wild and cultivated plants.

Finding the 22-Spot Ladybird in Winter

In winter, 22-Spot Ladybirds are harder to come by but can be found by beating a range of shrubby plants. These include Gorse (Ulex europaeus), planted Euonymous (Euonymus sp.) and Ivy (Hedera helix). I have also had luck searching for this species among stands of Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima).

22-Spot Ladybird swept from Hogweed in Newcastle
22-Spot Ladybird swept from Hogweed in Newcastle

Status in the UK

22-Spot Ladybird is a frequent species in England and Wales though it grows scarcer in Scotland. Here, there are only a handful of records around the central belt. See NBN for full information

Status in the North East

22-Spot Ladybird is one of the more frequently recorded ladybirds in the North East with many records across South Northumberland and County Durham. That said, records in these areas are far fewer than further South in the country.

According to NBN, this species is yet to be recorded in North Northumberland (VC68) but with records in Scotland, this is likely due to recorder coverage as opposed to genuine distribution.

Where I’ve recorded them so far

This is one ladybird that I stumble across fairly regularly in the North East. To date, most of my sightings have come from Tyneside where this species can be particularly numerous. That said, I have also found it plentiful at sites up the coast. Despite a few searches, I have not yet managed to find this species North of the Coquet…

James' records of 22-Spot Ladybird, as of July 2022
James’ records of 22-Spot Ladybird, as of July 2022