Finding ladybirds

An amateur guide to finding ladybirds in a range of habitats, based entirely on personal experience.

Setting out to record ladybirds, it wasn’t long before I’d found most of the familiar species likely to be spotted in my area. To find others, it became clear that I’d have to start looking in some quite specific places. From conifers to city cemeteries, this post brings together my observations so far when it comes to finding ladybirds.

This post relates only to my own experience and the information below is therefore rather limited. That said, I hope it gives a flavour of what you could encounter and where while hunting ladybirds. If you are looking for more comprehensive information, I’d recommend visiting the UK Ladybird Survey or Andrew Jewels.

Searching for urban ladybirds in Newcastle

Finding Ladybirds in Conifers

Often: 7-Spot Ladybird, Pine Ladybird, 10-Spot Ladybird, Larch Ladybird and Harlequin Ladybird. Sometimes: Striped Ladybird, 18-Spot Ladybird, Orange Ladybird, Eyed Ladybird, Cream-streaked Ladybird, Pine Scymnus, Epaulet Ladybird, Black Scymnus.

By far my favourite place to look for ladybirds! For simplicities sake, I am including here a range of sub-habitats including woodland featuring Scots Pine (Pinus Sylvestris) and of course, spruce plantation. Even isolated ornamental conifers in urban settings are included. Each of the these habitats has its merits. To date, I’ve had the most success searching conifers in mosaic habitats or isolated urban trees. A lonely Black Pine (Pinus nigra) in a city cemetery, for example.

Striped Ladybirds are hard to come by but a highlight for anyone looking at ladybirds on conifers. To date, those I’ve seen have invariably been found on the lower branches of mature Scots Pines. I have not seen a single one on any non-native species, regardless of habitat.

18-Spot Ladybird and Eyed Ladybird seem less picky than their striped counterparts. In addition to our native Scots Pine, I have also encountered these exotic species such as Black Pine. A scarce species here, all of the Cream-streaked Ladybirds I have found have been on non-native conifers.

Finally, three species of inconspicuous ladybirds and by far the easiest to come by is Scymnus suturalis. Invariably found on Scots Pine, the greatest numbers I have seen have been in woodland edge habitats. Despite searching many of suitable sites, the only Scymnus nigrinus I have seen was on a young Scots Pine in a mixed coniferous/heathland setting.

Rhyzobius chrysomeloides is an interesting species. A new species for the North East, I have almost exclusively found these on Dwarf Mountain Pine. This being an evergreen commonly planted in urban settings.

Isolated Scots Pine containing Larch, Pine, Striped and 18-Spot Ladybirds

Broadleaf Trees

Ubiquitous species: 7-Spot Ladybird, 10-Spot Ladybird, 14-Spot Ladybird, Harlequin Ladybird and 22-Spot Ladybird. Sometimes: Orange Ladybird, Cream-spot Ladybird, Pine Ladybird, Kidney-spot Ladybird.

Broadleaf woodland can be rather hit and miss when it comes to ladybirds. 10-Spot Ladybird and the yellow species are easy enough to come by here, while others can take some finding.

I’ve had the most luck searching for Orange Ladybirds on the ivy-covered trunks of broadleaf trees. Similarly, this is a good place to search for Cream-spot Ladybird which I also find occasionally on oak and willow.

A generalist, Pine Ladybird can also be found on broadleaf trees, while Kidney-spot Ladybirds often gather Ash during Spring.

Grassland

Ubiquitous species: 7-Spot Ladybird, 14-Spot Ladybird, 22-Spot Ladybird, 10-Spot Ladybird and 2-Spot Ladybird, Sometimes: Adonis’ Ladybird, 11-Spot Ladybird, 24-Spot Ladybird, Meadow Ladybird and Hieroglyphic Ladybird.

Here, “grassland” is used as a catch-all and includes a range of prime habitats such as meadows and dunes. Equally, it also covers verges, arable margins and other, less scenic grassy places.

24-Spot Ladybird is a grassland specialist, often be found wherever its food plants, False Oat Grass and Red Campion, grow. Searching for this species can tricky; though where they are present, they tend to be present in numbers.

Sharing similar habitats is the Meadow Ladybird, Rhyzobius litura. The more I look for this species, the more it becomes apparent that they are present in a great many places. Untidy verges, pristine coastal meadows, it doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve also had reasonable luck too looking for both 24-Spot and Meadow Ladybirds in winter by searching tussock of Cock’s-foot.

Adonis’ Ladybird favours somewhat barren places and to date, I’ve had the most look finding this species within grassland on dry, calcareous soils. Likewise, to date, my scant few encounters with 11-Spot Ladybird have been in a grassland setting, usually on the coast.

While often thought of as an upland species, I recently encountered Hieroglyphic Ladybird (Coccinella hieroglyphica) by searching a relatively unassuming patch of coastal grassland. Surprises, remember!

Calcaerous grassland containing 14-Spot, 7-Spot, 10-Spot and Adonis’ Ladybirds.

Heathland

Ubiquitous species: 7-Spot Ladybird. Sometimes: Heather Ladybird, Kidney-spot Ladybird, Larch Ladybird, 10-Spot Ladybird, Pine Ladybird, Pine Scymnus

Moorlands can be a pretty barren place to look for ladybirds and excluding the odd 7-Spot, to date, I don’t think I have seen a single species deep within typical heather monoculture. Instead, my best results have come from fringe habitats where I have been lucky enough to encounter Heather Ladybird (Chilocorus bipustulatus) on a couple of occasions on the margins of moorland.

Where habitats merge, either into scrub or conifer plantation, 10-Spot Ladybird seem fairly frequent and Larch Ladybird (Aphidecta obliterata) can often be found. Kidney-spot Ladybird has been found on moorland too and if Scots Pine is present, Pine Scymnus usually arent far away.

Commonly growing in a heathland setting, Gorse (Ulex europaeus) can be a fantastic place to search for ladybirds, especially in winter. Most of the species above have also been encountered by searching Gorse though it seems a particularly good place to find Pine Ladybird, even in the absence of any pines.

Wetland

Sometimes: Water Ladybird and Red Marsh Ladybird

While not the most diverse place to find ladybirds, wetlands are a great place to look for two species in particular: the Water Ladybird (Anisosticta novemdecimpunctata) and Red Marsh Ladybird (Coccidula rufa). Both of these are easy to come by in summer by sweep netting riparian vegetation and in winter, by checking the leaf sheaths of Bulrush (Typha latifolia) and other plants. I’ve also had some luck in finding Red Marsh Ladybird on flooded fields rich in sedges and rushes. Water Ladybird, however, does not seem to stray too far from lusher waterside plants.

Parks, Gardens and Industrial Estates

Ubiquitous species: 7-Spot Ladybird, 14-Spot Ladybird, 2-Spot Ladybird, 10-Spot Ladybird, Pine Ladybird, 22-Spot Ladybird, Orange Ladybird and Cream-Spot Ladybird. Sometimes: Kidney-spot Ladybird, Adonis’ Ladybird, most conifer specialists.

Urban areas and the parks, gardens and other micro-habitats found within them are superb places in which to look for ladybirds. In these places, generalist species such as Harlequin, 2-Spot and 7-Spot Ladybirds can be incredibly numerous, as can species such as Orange Ladybird and Pine Ladybird often harder to come by in the wider countryside.

Thanks to the diversity of plant life and the restricted nature of greenspace areas, it is possible to find a range of ladybird species concentrated together in large numbers. Cemeteries are a prime example of this, and on a good day, it is possible to find ten or more species clustered together on headstones or trees.

Isolated conifers in urban locations seem to be a fantastic place to see a range of specialist ladybirds – a mature Black Pine in Benton Cemetery, Newcastle, yielding Cream-streaked, Eyed, Striped and 18-Spot Ladybirds on a single day in 2022, alongside Pine Scymnus.

In gardens, on roundabouts, and even within car parks, some popular ornamental plants also seem to be a hit with ladybirds. Dwarf Mountain Pine with Epaulet Ladybird; Buddleia with Harlequin, 2-Spot and 10-Spot Ladybirds and Euonymus with a wide range of species.

Orange Ladybirds (Halyzia sedecimguttata) overwintering in a city cemetery

Recording Ladybirds

So, you’ve identified an area of suitable habitat and now, you’re ready to find some ladybirds. How exactly do you do it?

Sweep-netting, tree beating and searching by eye, this page shares a few of the ways you can get closer to ladybirds in your local area.