There are around 4,000 different species of beetles in the UK, all with important roles to play in our ecosystem. Coming in different shapes and sizes, perhaps the most popular and recognisable beetle is the ladybird. Known as the gardener’s friend, the ladybird helps stop our prized plants being consumed by feeding on aphids. 

There are around 47 species of ladybird in the UK all with a varying patterns and colours. Although only around 26 are considered ‘conspicuous ladybirds’: these are the large, colourful ladybirds that can often be spotted on plants. Whilst the other species are generally smaller, harder to find and more challenging to identify. 

The classic image of the ladybird is the aptly named 7-spot ladybird, donning seven spots dotted across its bright red back. This ladybird is considered the classic ladybird, and is widely found in parks and gardens. It is a large ladybird, usually 5-8mm long. It has red wing cases, with three black spots on each side and a seventh spot in the middle. Look out for it on low-growing plants.

The orange ladybird is a distinctive ladybird found across the UK. It’s around 6mm long and as its name suggests, is orange all over, with 12-16 white spots on its wing cases. It feeds on mildew on leaves and is often seen around sycamore and ash trees.

The eyed ladybird is the UK’s largest ladybird, growing to around 8.5mm. It’s widespread in the UK, but not often seen. It spends much of its time in the canopy of conifer trees, particularly Scots pine, hunting aphids. Its wing cases are dark red, usually with 15 black spots – though spots can vary from zero to 23. The spots usually have pale rings around them.

Sadly, ladybirds in Britain are threatened by an invasive species – the harlequin ladybird. This Asian species first reached the UK in the early 2000s but it has spread quickly and is now common. It is 5-8mm long but comes in a confusing variety of colours and patterns – more than 100 different colour patterns have been recorded! One helpful clue is that harlequins usually have reddish-brown legs. The most common form has orange/red wings with 15-21 black spots. Another has black wings with four red spots. 

Find out more information on ladybirds on the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust website: www.hiwwt.org.uk/wildlife-explorer/invertebrates/beetles 

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