All about ladybirds
Ladybirds are among the most familiar and well-loved of all the insects in Britain. However, for many people this typically means the seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) and it is not always realised that we have quite a number of other species living in the UK.
What to look for
Ladybirds are oval or round and brightly marked beetles, easily recognised even by small children. Their body colour can be red, orange, yellow or even black and up to 10mm long. The spot pattern on their bodies varies in colour and number between species. They have six short legs and two antennae on the head which have between 3 and 6 segments, with a short club-like end.
Did you know?
- Most species of ladybird feed on soft-bodied insects, particularly aphids, such as greenfly and blackfly. As such insects are often very damaging to the plants they feed on, this makes the ladybird a real friend to the gardener and farmer.
- The bright colour of the ladybird is a warning to any predators such as birds who might feed on them. It indicates that the ladybird’s body contains substances which are poisonous or at least very distasteful to a predator.
- The ladybird lays eggs on the leaves of plants and the eggs hatch into larvae, The larva does not look much like the adult. The larva’s body is made up of clear segments, unlike the parent ladybird, and the body is often dark, with red or white spots and small lumps or spines. The larva stays on the plant and also eats small insects. It sheds its skin (moults) several times as it grows larger until a final moult to form a pupa. The pupa is attached to a leaf and looks like a warty lump. The adult ladybird hatches from the pupa.
In recent years a non-British species of ladybird has begun to spread within the United Kingdom. This is the harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis), which has a voracious appetite and is able to out-compete our native species in the hunt for food. It will even eat other species of ladybird. The spread of the harlequin ladybird is leading to serious declines in a number of our native species. If you do find one, or think you have, you can report this to the national harlequin monitoring scheme at
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Ladybirds are very common and widespread in the United Kindom. However, a recent threat to the native species has appeared with the arrival and spread in the United Kingdom of the harlequin ladybird (see the 'Did you know?' section on the left).
Ladybirds are very widespread and can be found living in a range of locations, including deciduous woodland, heather, parks, and very frequently in gardens.
Where to see
They are most easily seen during the warmer months, when they can be present in large numbers searching on plants for food. Their numbers vary greatly from year to year, often dependent on the availability of the food supply. However, ladybirds may even be found by careful searching during winter when they hibernate, often in very large clusters in places protected from the frost. This can be in amongst plants, but also in outhouses and attics.