Wednesday, 18 August 2010
One of my sons spotted this ladybird crawling around on top of my friend's wall. I just managed to photograph it before it flew away.
Ladybirds belong to the scientific family Coccinellidae. There are around 46 species in this family across Britain, although not all of them would instantly be recognised as ladybirds. This particular bug is a Seven-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) and is one of the larger members of the family growing to between 5 and 8 mm in length. It is the most common ladybird to be found in Europe. It's elytra (hardened forewings) are red with 3 black spots apiece. The seventh spot (as you can see on the photo) is spread across the join of the two and is known as the scutellary spot.
Ladybirds are a form of beetle, which means that they have biting mouthparts, but their main defensive strategies are colour and poison. The bright red colour, which so many of us find attractive, is a warning to potential predators "Don't eat me. I taste disgusting!" (a strategy known as aposematism). While the back up defence is the secretion of a foul tasting fluid from the joints in the legs "Don't say I didn't warn you!". Sometimes, this is combined with playing dead.
Each species of ladybird has its own preferred habitat, but this little fella isn't overly fussy, which probably explains why he is so common. Active Seven-Spots can often be seen in low herbage, but the species will also overwinter in conifer foliage. Like many ladybirds, their staple diet is aphids.