Right and below are ladybirds, these belong to the Coccinellidae family. There are 5 000 species world wide, and around 53 in the U. K., and most have the characteristic round shape. They range in length from 1 - 15 mm. The antennae are short and end in a club.
Most adults and larvae (see the drawing below right) are carnivorous, though there are a few herbivorous species. Each larva will eat hundreds of aphids in its life. Both adults and larvae are now sold as biological control agents. An Australian ladybird, Rodolina cardinalis, was introduced to California to control the cottony cushion scale insect, a bug, that was a pest on the citrus crop.
The bright colouration of both adults and larvae is a warning to predators that they taste foul! This is termedaposematic colouring.
Where did the ladybird get its name?
There are a number of possible answers to this question.
1) In medieval times the red body reminded people of the red cloak worn by the Virgin Mary in paintings. Remember this was a time when there were few visual images.
2) The seven spots on the very common 7 spot ladybird were said to represent the Virgin mary's 7 joys and 7 sorrows. And put this with 3 below.
3) Ladybirds can fly so "Our lady's bird.
7 spot (Coccinella septempunctata)
The ladybird above right has normal colouration of a 7 spot (Coccinella septempunctata). The one on the right has melanic colouration. This type of dark colouration is not so unusual, and is linked to the genes of the beetle. It is believed that in colder areas the dark colouration may be an advantage because it will enable the beetle to warm up more quickly.
Adults range in length from 6 - 8 mm. And larvae are up to 10 - 12 mm long. Both pupae and larvae are grey and black with orange splotches.
Adults often overwinter together in huge numbers as this conserves warmth.
Right is a drawing of a typical Coccinellidae larva. They are short and fat. They body has numerous tubercles and spines. The colours are brown, blue-black with yellow. Their legs are long and they are usually found on plants and trees in batches of 10 - 50 near their aphid prey. They pupate on leaves attached by their tail.
The females lay the eggs on plants - usually on the underside of leaves, and as a newly hatched ladybird larva can survive for only 60 hours without food, the egg must be laid near their food - usually aphids or their relatives. The females lay batches of 3 - 50 eggs. The eggs are yellow.
Normally a female can lay 100 - 200 eggs in her lifetime. Earwigs are predators of ladybird eggs.
Orange ladybird, Halyzia 16 guttata
On the left and right is the Orange ladybird, Halyzia 16 guttata. This ladybird is unusual in the it feeds on mildew on the undersides of the leaves of deciduous trees, although its secondary food is aphids.
It overwinters in leaf litter, on trees (especially sycamore), and also underground. Its eggs are off-white - pale lemon yellow and laid in batches of up to 24 on leaves. I found this one injured and clinging to the side of a gate into the woods.
Propylea 14-punctata, Propylea quaturodecimpunctata, the 14 spot ladybird
The 14 spot ladybird, on the left, is yellow with black spots. The spots can be joined up, and very varied in pattern, but tend to be more rectangular than round. Adults are 3.5 - 4.5 mm long, and are found from April - September.
Adalia bipunctata, the 2 spot ladybird
The 2 spot ladybird on the right is one of the most abundant and most variable in adult colouration. It usually has 2 black spots on a red background, but black with red spots, and even a yellow background can be seen. The underside is always black. This ladybird is much smaller than the 7 spot above.
The 10 spot ladybird, Adalia 10-punctata has orange/yellowish coloured legs and antennae, but the spot pattern is varied, as is the background colour. In fact the 10-spot has over 40 different names mainly because it has so many different colour patterns, leading taxonomists to believe they were describing different species.
Adult body length is 3.5 - 5. 0 mm. It is found throughout the Palaearctic region. In the U. K. it is usually found on deciduous trees, in meadows and gardens, and is common. The adults are commonly seen from May - October.
Below and left is the Cream spot ladybird. The adult body length is 4 - 5 mm, and as the name suggests it has 14 cream coloured spots on red. As with most other ladybirds it eats aphids and similar insects both as an adult and larva. It will also eat honeydew.
It is found in Europe, Siberia and North America. Adults are seen in spring, and in the U. K. it is found mainly on deciduous trees and in hedgerows. This one was on birch in April.