24-Spot Ladybird

Subcoccinella vigintiquattuorpunctata

24-Spot Ladybird pair at Stocksfield, Northumberland
24-Spot Ladybirds mating at Stocksfield, Northumberland

Description

A rather beautiful yet tiny ladybird measuring only 3-4mm. The 24-Spot Ladybird is a grassland specialist sporting black spots atop orange-red wing cases or elytra. While some individuals may have twenty-four spots, this number is variable and spot fusion is common, as seen in the individual below with its larger than usual dark markings.

Like some of the inconspicuous ladybirds, this is a hairy species which gives it a dull or matt appearance. It also has orange-red legs and the colour of the pronotum matches that of the wing cases.

What do the 24-Spot Ladybird larvae look like?

The larvae of this species are small at only 4-6mm and are pale green in colour. They are covered in darker speckles and boast a series of branching spines down the length of their body.

24-Spot Ladybird larvae, Newburn, Tyne & Wear
24 Spot Ladybird larvae, Newburn, Tyne & Wear

What does the 24-Spot Ladybird eat?

Unusual among British ladybirds, the 24-Spot Ladybird is not predatory. Instead, it feeds on plant matter including the leaves of False Oat-grass (Arrhenatherum elatius) and Red Campion (Silene dioica).

Habitat

A grassland species through and through, this ladybird is best looked for within meadows and rough grassland. It seems particularly fond of unkempt grassland rich in tussock-forming species such as Cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata) and I have had the best luck searching for this species along the messy margins of arable fields.

This ladybird has also been reported from scrubland and marshy habitats and in my area at least, can also be found within coastal dunes, including at sites with little campion or oat-grass.

While this species is usually found close to its food plants, I have also found it on Cock’s-foot, Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) and Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare).

24-Spot Ladybird found on brownfield land within Newcastle
24-Spot Ladybird found on brownfield land within Newcastle

How to find them

Rather small and often hiding within dense tangles of grass, I’ve had the most success finding this species by sweep-netting. In good quality habitat, this approach can often yield surprising numbers – those below were discovered by sweep-netting Cock’s-foot along the messy outskirts of some arable farmland.

Finding this species by eye seems much more difficult but I have had some luck scanning the leaves of Red Campion or the stems of taller grasses.

In winter

In winter, this ladybird is best looked for within grass tussocks. Often impenetrable, I’ve had the most luck shaking tussocks over a net – an approach which also seems to work well for Rhyzobius litura.

24-Spot Ladybirds swept from grassland near Stocksfield, Northumberland
24-Spot Ladybirds swept from grassland near Stocksfield, Northumberland

Status in the UK

This is a common and widespread species across much of Southern England. In Northern England and Scotland, this species becomes scarcer with the majority of sightings coming from coastal environments. See NBN for full information

Status in the North East

In the North East, records of this ladybird are few and far between. The majority of sightings come from the banks of the River Tyne between Prudhoe and Newcastle, with scattered sightings elsewhere up the coast of South Northumberland. It would also appear to be rare, or at least poorly recorded, in County Durham.

At the time of writing this, there has only been one confirmed sighting of this species in North Northumberland.

Where I’ve recorded the 24 Spot Ladybird

This is not a species I encounter often. To date, most encounters have been inland, along the Tyne, but I have also stumbled across this species on brownfield land within Newcastle. Further North, I have also recorded this species from coastal grassland at Blyth in South Northumberland.

James’ records of 24-Spot Ladybird, updated July 2022