Recording Ladybirds

A quick guide to the different ways you can go about recording ladybirds, and where to send your sightings.

Sweep Netting

Investing in a sweep net is a game-changer when recording ladybirds. Not only does it double the number of common ladybirds you’ll encounter but it opens up the possibility of finding something rarer too. Indeed, my only Hieroglyphic Ladybird to date was found with the help of a net!

Obviously, the type of habitat you choose will determine what you catch. Generally, you’ll want a multi-purpose net that is durable enough to survive sweeping through woody plants, as well as grass. Being thick enough to deal with the odd bramble also helps! I use the NHBS Standard Sweep Net for just this reason and have found it very good.

In my experience, sweep netting is just about the only way to find Rhyzobius litura and 24-Spot Ladybird. It also greatly increases catches of a range of other species such as 14-Spot Ladybird and 22-Spot Ladybird,

Recording grassland ladybirds by Scotswood Road, Newcastle
Sweep netting grassland beside Scotswood Road, Newcastle

Tree Beating

Not half as aggressive as it sounds. Needless to say, this is the process of tapping a tree or shrub and assessing what falls out. To do this, you’ll need something to catch the resulting mix of insects, twigs, and leaves. A beating tray is a good idea but expensive and an upturned umbrella supposedly works well. That said, personally, I opt for the budget approach of beating above my sweep net.

Tree beating will greatly increase the number of arboreal species seen and is a great way to catch up with most of the elusive conifer specialists, from the Striped Ladybird to the tiny Pine Scymnus.

Tree beating for ladybirds using the trusty stick and net combination

Visual Searches

The good old-fashioned way and of course, a great way to find ladybirds prone to sitting out in the open. Simply walk and look, paying attention to suitable perches, and inevitably, you’ll come across a ladybird. Most often a 7-Spot Ladybird!

Popular Plants

Targeting searches by plant species can be a great way to increase your tally. Conifers, particularly Scots Pine, can be a huge draw in winter and much luck can be had checking around the buds at the tips of branches. Similarly, evergreens such as Ivy and Euonymus tend often yield results.

From mildewy Common Hogweed to Red Campion, do take the time to carry out a quick Google search. Often plant life holds the key to success…

Larch Ladybird found while recording ladybirds within conifers
Larch Ladybird on Norway Spruce

Recording Ladybirds in Cemeteries

How could I not mention cemeteries? From late-Autumn to mid-Spring, cemeteries, particularly in urban areas, are an incredible place to look for ladybirds. Whether this is down to the quality of the habitat present in these old and untended places, or something else entirely, it is not unusual to find huge mixed-species gatherings on sunny gravestones.

In our day and age, Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) may well be the most numerous ladybird in cemeteries but a range of other species can also be encountered fairly easily.

Recording cemetery ladybirds in Jesmond, Newcastle
Admiring Harlequin Ladybirds on a headstone, Jesmond Cemetery

Where to send your ladybird records?

Once you’ve sought out a ladybird and noted its location, what do you do with your record?

In the UK, you really ought to submit your sightings to the UK Ladybird Survey. Here, they can be used to inform conservation and publications and ultimately, ensure that your records count for our ladybirds.

UK Ladybird Survey via iRecord

Submitting your sightings to the UK Ladybird Survey is easiest on iRecord, a dedicated platform for biological recorders. This ensures your records get to where they’re needed and provides access to expert verifiers who offer feedback on your sightings. You might even hear from me if submitting a record in the North East…

As well as inputting the usual key information, it is always helpful to include a photograph alongside your record. This helps verifiers confirm your sighting and is invaluable when it comes to confirming some of the trickier inconspicuous ladybirds.

North East Ladybird Spot

While local ladybird surveys seem to be somewhat scarce, it would be rude of me not to mention my own local project, the North East Ladybird Spot. Led by the Natural History Society of Northumbria, this scheme uses iRecord to link to the UK Ladybird Survey. Already, it has generated thousands of ladybird records.