Now, before I go any further I just want to say that Rhyzobius chrysomeloides is covered in far greater detail on Andrew Jewels’ fantastic website. If you’re looking for top-notch information, I’d strongly recommend paying a visit!
A new arrival to the UK first recorded in 1996, the Epaulet Ladybird is said to closely resemble the Meadow Ladybird (Rhyzobius litura), so much so that historically, the only way to separate them was to examine the keel. That said, having studied the information on Andrew Jewels’ website, it does seem possible to tell them apart in the field.
A small, brown to chestnut ladybird sporting a pale shoulder stripe, this rather lovely ladybird also boasts some dark tooth-like projections on its wing cases which are helpful in the field. I’m not sure why, but these dark markings often remind me of a medieval shield…
Habitat is also a key feature when it comes to finding and identifying this ladybird. Whereas Rhyzobius litura is likely to be swept from grasses or herbaceous vegetation, this species will usually be found on evergreen trees and shrubs.
From now on, I’ll be calling this the ‘industrial estate ladybird’.
When it comes to the habitat choice of Rhyzobius chrysomeloides in the North East, a lot remains to be determined. Indeed, it wasn’t long back that this species was completely unknown in our region. Recently, it has been discovered at two sites in Tyneside – both of which just so happen to be industrial estates rich in evergreen trees.
In my [limited] experience, this species seems to favour non-native conifers such as Black Pine (Pinus nigra) and Dwarf Mountain Pine (Pinus mugo). Where it is found on these trees it tends to be very numerous and it is always worth searching areas of similar habitats nearby.
Elsewhere, where I have encountered populations of Rhyzobius chrysomeloides on conifers, I have also found a few individuals nearby on other evergreens. Among these, Lonicera nitida, euonymus and ivy. I’m yet to find this species on any native plant!
How to find them Rhyzobius chrysomeloides
This species is tiny, secretive and ultimately, rather hard to find. Echoing the advice of others, I strongly recommend tree beating as a way of finding Epaulet Ladybirds. If you notice an industrial estate, business park or another urban area rife with ornamental shrubs, it is certainly worth checking. Indeed, I stumbled across the North East’s second population of Rhyzobius chrysomeloides following a hunch about industrial estates and Pinus mugo…
Status in the UK
Rhyzobius chrysomeloides is a new arrival to the UK. Records of this species appear to be concentrated in the area surrounding London but pockets exist around Birmingham and Manchester too. Previously, the furthest North this species had been recorded was Caton in Lancaster. Find out more via NBN.
Rhyzobius chrysomeloides in the North East
Rhyzobius chrysomeloides was discovered at Silverlink, North Tyneside, in early 2022 – a fair old jump from the nearest known population in Lancaster. Since then, it has also been found at a second site on the opposite side of Newcastle, suggesting it could be rather more widespread in our region.
Where I’ve recorded Rhyzobius chrysomeloides
So far, I’ve only encountered Rhyzobius chrysomeloides at two sites: Silverlink Industrial Estate in North Tyneside and Newburn Business Park in Newcastle. Both areas are rich in the evergreen plants favoured by this species and both produced good numbers of ladybirds when searched thoroughly. With many more such sites in Newcastle and further afield in Northumberland, I suspect more sites could be revealed very soon.