The 7 spot, Coccinellidae septempunctata, is widespread throughout the UK. The ladybird below has normal colouration of a 7 spot (Coccinellidae septempunctata), but there also are dark coloured ones. 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. Also in this species the spot number can vary from 0 - 9, but 7 is by far the commonest.
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. And can be found on a wide variety of plants. The female lays batches of 10 - 50 eggs in aphid colonies.
Adults often overwinter together in huge numbers as this conserves warmth.
Above and below 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. The spots can be white or creamy-yellow, and the number can vary from 12 - 16. Adult body length is 4.5 - 6.0 mm.
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.
The 14 spot ladybird, Propylea quaturodecimpunctata, above, is yellow with black spots, and it has orange legs. It is found throughout the UK, although less common towards the north, and fairly uncommon in Scotland. Its distribution has decreased since 1990. The spots can be joined up, and very varied in pattern, but tend to be more rectangular than round. There is a dark variety of this species where the background is black and the spots are yellow. The spot number can vary from 4 - 14. Adults are 3.5 - 4.5 mm long, and are found from April - September. It is found on a wide variety of plants, but usually low growing ones, or lower down on taller plants.
14-spot larvae will die if they do not feed for 36 hours.
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.
Harlequin ladybird, Harmonia axyridis above. This ladybird has multiple common names and even more colour patterns. Harlequin is probably the most apt common name. I thought the one above was a large melanic 7 spot until I was corrected. This ladybird is not native to the U. K., and was first recorded here in 2004. It came originally from Asia, and has been widely, and successfully, used in the biocontrol of aphids. However since 1988 it has spread over most of North America, Europe, New Zealand, and has started invading South America and South Africa. In many areas it has become the most common ladybird, outcompeting the local species. In colder areas the adult can hibernate through the winter.
The adult body length is 5.0 - 8.0 mm. The legs are always brown. An adult female can lay 20 - 50 eggs per day, and as she can live for up to a year it is possible for a female to lay 4000 eggs in her lifetime, but probably 1000 is more common. The eggs hatch in a week, larval stages take 3 - 4 weeks, and pupation just one week.
The prey of both larvae and adults includes aphids, and almost any other small insect, adult, lava or egg, including native ladybirds. It will also eat pollen, drink nectar and honeydew, and juice from fallen fruit.
Not a ladybird, but similar - click here
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