A fascinating little ladybird found exclusively within wetland environments, the Water Ladybird is easy enough to identify owing to its elongate shape and unique colouration. In autumn, winter and early spring, this species is beige in colour while it changes to an attractive maroon red come summer.
Like other ladybirds, the Water Ladybird can have a variable number of spots on the elytra, typically between fifteen and twenty-one. These are black, much like those found on the pronotum, behind the head.
What does the Water Ladybird eat?
The Water Ladybird is a predatory species which feeds on aphids living on Bulrush (Typha latifolia) and other aquatic and riparian plants.
Water Ladybird Habitat
This species is invariably found close to water. To date, most of the Water Ladybirds I have seen have been found within particularly lush habitats, such as the vegetated margins of ponds and lakes, or ditches, usually close to Bulrush or Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus). Reedbeds too are a great place to look, though these offer more hiding places!
While Water Ladybird seems to prefer emergent vegetation around ponds, I have found a few individuals on seasonal floods and boggy areas dominated by Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) and a variety of sedges. These areas, however, do not seem optimal and searches can be rather hit and miss.
How to find Water Ladybird
Owing to their choice of habitat, finding Water Ladybirds is fairly straightforward and I’ve had the most luck sweep-netting riparian and marginal vegetation as mentioned above. Similarly, it is possible to find this species visually by checking the stems of iris and Bulrush.
Finding Water Ladybird in Winter
In winter, finding Water Ladybirds becomes easier still and gently peeling back the leaf sheaths of Bulrush and Common Reed (Phragmites australis) can often lead to results if you have the patience to check enough plants. It is not unusual to spend a good while searching only to find multiple ladybirds overwintering together on one plant!
Only once have I recorded this species overwintering elsewhere – a single individual found within Gorse at Gosforth Nature Reserve. How unusual this is, I am unsure, but the bush in question was close to a pond.
Status in the UK
Water Ladybird is a widespread species across much of the UK, although it is restricted to wetland sites. More abundant in Southern England, records grow sparser in the North. There are very few records from Scotland. See NBN for full information
Status in the North East
In the North East, Water Ladybirds seem restricted predominately to Tyneside, with clusters of records around wetland sites in Newcastle. There are few records for County Durham and only a handful of sightings in South Northumberland.
Water Ladybird is yet to be found in North Northumberland (VC68). The nearest known sighting comes from Druridge Bay, a few miles south of the vice-county boundary.
Where I’ve recorded Water Ladybird
I’ve stumbled across Water Ladybird at a number of sites within Tyneside. Among these, most are well-known, larger wetlands such as Gosforth Nature Reserve and Rising Sun Country Park. Searching smaller ponds too, I was pleased to find this species at new sites at Heaton, Newburn, Woolsington and Silverlink.
To date, my most northerly record of this species comes from Cramlington Local Nature Reserve in South Northumberland.