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Ladybirds (Coleoptera)

There can be few insects more readily identifiable than ladybird beetles, yet they do not all have the common red and black colour pattern. For example, some are yellow with black spots. There are about 42 species found in the UK, and they are in the family Coccinellidae, which means 'little sphere' - a good description. Many are excellent predators of pest insects in the garden. Over-amorous two-spot ladybirds (Adalia bipunctata) can succumb to a fungal sexually transmitted disease. Surprisingly, ladybirds from central London have higher rates of the disease than those outside the capital. It appears that the increased promiscuity of the urban ladybirds is a result of the centre of the capital being warmer than the outskirts. As a consequence, city ladybirds are active (in all senses) for longer than those in the suburbs. Ladybirds can generally be found in gardens from March to October.

Seven-spot ladybird Coccinella septempunctata

Fact File

Numbers of some ladybird species have been rapidly declining since the late 1990s, which may be due to an increase numbers of a parasitic wasp, Dinocampus coccinellae, which attacks adult ladybirds.

One of the biggest threats to a young ladybird is another young ladybird - cannabilism is common, even though the larvae may try to avoid eating their siblings.

The bright patterns on many ladybirds are an example of aposematic (warning) colouration - ladybirds taste vile!