An elusive beauty, and definitely my favourite British ladybird. The Striped Ladybird is a large species measuring in at around 7mm. For reference, that’s roughly the same size as the non-native Harlequin. A true specialist, it is associated with Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) is most commonly encountered in coniferous woodland.
Britain’s only chestnut-coloured ladybird, this is a distinctive species sporting a mixture of cream stripes and elongated spots on the elytra. The pronotum is also a distinctive mix of chestnut and black with two large white patches towards the margins.
Unlike other conspicuous ladybirds, the Striped Ladybird is not a particularly variable species, although an elusive melanistic form does exist. Pictured below, in this form, the wing cases are a deep purple, almost black.
What does the Striped Ladybird eat?
The Striped Ladybird is an aphid predator. It feeds on the specalist aphids found on pines with a preference for larger species in the Cinara family. I have observed it feeding on Large Pine Aphid (Cinara pinea).
Striped Ladybird Habitat
A conifer specialist, the Striped Ladybird can be found wherever its favoured Scots Pine grows. It is usually seen in coniferous and mixed woodland but also occurs in shelter belts and areas of amenity planting. Scattered or isolated pines appear suitable for this species too, even where only a single tree is present. Indeed, I’ve observed Striped Ladybird on an isolated pine growing in an industrial estate car park!
Much of the material online about Striped Ladybirds suggests they are pretty specific to Scots Pine. Indeed, they certainly seem more specialised than other conifer ladybirds and I’m yet to see one on spruce, fir or larch. That said, non-native pine species seem to have potential and so far, I’ve also observed them on Black Pine (Pinus nigra) and Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta).
How to find them
Striped Ladybirds appear to be one of the more difficult conifer ladybirds to find in the field. I have found the best approach to be beating (or tapping) the branches of Scots Pine. The lower branches can yield results but generally, the higher you go, the more likely you are to find one. This species also seems to favour mature pines and is rarely seen on saplings.
To date, all of the Striped Ladybirds I have encountered in winter have been found at the tips of conifer branches. Most often overwintering around the buds and cones. This is an interesting observation for a species said to spend the winter under bark or leaf litter. Only once have I found this species away from pine in winter – a single individual low down in Gorse (Ulex europeus). Whether this had been blown down by strong winds, however, remains to be seen.
Status in the UK
Unsurprisingly for a ladybird that spends most of its time in the canopy, Striped Ladybird is recorded infrequently in the UK. At the time of writing this, there are just over 1,440 records on NBN. Contrast that with 117,000 sightings of 7-Spot Ladybird, for example.
While recorded infrequently, Striped Ladybird appear to be widespread across the UK with good coverage across much of the country. They would appear to be a fairly common species, albeit one that takes quite a bit of finding. See NBN for more information.
Status in the North East
Mirroring the national distribution, records of Striped Ladybird are widespread in the North East with a scattering across pine-rich areas of County Durham and Northumberland. A particular concentration of records can also be found in Tyneside; though this likely represents a map of recorders as opposed to ladybirds.
Where I’ve recorded Striped Ladybird
To date, I have recorded Striped Ladybird in several squares in and around Newcastle. These sightings come from an interesting mix of habitats ranging from woodland to isolated urban trees. Searches away from the city have so far drawn a blank but really, it is just a matter of time…