Peter Pearson's picture


Are we seeing an invasion of ladybirds on the Essex/Suffolk coast. There seems to be exceptionally large numbers of 7-Spots in Colchester and on the River Stour estuary at Manningtree.



phildean's picture

Also in West Berkshire

I'm also seeing many 7-spot ladybirds in my garden in West Berkshire. Almost every one I see is this species.

MatthewGirling's picture

Felixstowe, Suffolk

My friend and I both independently noticed a lot more ladybirds here in Felixstowe, a couple of weeks ago, and they seem to still be going strong.
It's good for the gardens as they eat aphids.


Peter Pearson's picture

Ladybird invasion Thanks Matthew.

Re your observation in Felixstowe, this afternoon I visited the waterfront and beach at Harwich. The footpaths were littered with dead 7-Spots, and looking into a fishing boat being repaired on the beach, the bilge had 30+ trapped dead in the oil and water in the bottom.Thankfully there were many still alive in plants and shrubs in the area.

Kezzy's Mum's picture

We have them a little further

We have them a little further north too in the Lincolnshire area especially Boston and Skegness area

rimo's picture

The 7-spots are having a good

The 7-spots are having a good year - probably from a combination of big populations last year, the hot spring, and the warm, wet summer (good for plants = good for aphids = good for ladybirds!).

They often swarm in August - huge numbers develop to adulthood in crop fields, and when the crops are harvested, destroying any aphid colonies, suddenly millions of ladybirds have no food and so they disperse outwards looking for something to eat. Often they end up at the coast, where they can't disperse any further and so pile up along the beach and in the nearby towns.

The combination of extensive agriculture and a surrounding coastline makes east Anglia particularly susceptible

Record your ladybird sightings!

anonymous spotter's picture

7 Spot Ladybirds

Its not just 7 Spot, there has been a marked
increase in all the ladybird species that collect in my patch which is about 100yds long
section of inner city cycle path, rather than list all I have seen in numbers heres the ones I
have not:Eyed,False and water.

rimo's picture

Sounds an impressive list -

Sounds an impressive list - have you submitted your records to the ladybird survey?

False Ladybird isn't actually a ladybird species, incidentally - it's a fungus beetle which imitates ladybird's defensive colouration

Record your ladybird sightings!

jenniferpowell's picture

West Cornwall

It was particularly warm, the weekend before last, went for a walk and saw 7 spots everywhere and quite a few Red Admirals and beetles too.

jennifer powell

Peter Pearson's picture

Large numbers of ladybirds

We had a similar experience with ladybirds last weekend. Masses of 7-spot and harlequins everywhere in the area we visited at Mistley Park, Essex. On one streach of chestnut fence approx 30ft long, the palings had 200 Harlequin larvae and pupae on them. To top off the day there were also quite a few Pines among them.

DesBowring's picture

Still around!

Still lots of Harlequins basking in November sunshine yesterday in central Bristol.

Peter Pearson's picture


Today was a cloudy rather cool misty damp day with a strong easterly breeze.
My wife and I visited a site on Essex side of the Stour Valley at Mistley where we were surprised to find hundreds of 7-spots out and about. Also present were large numbers of Harlequins emerging from pupae.
Can any one tell us, do 7-spots feed on the small green lichen found mainly on wood. Early in the year we found them on lichen, this was before aphids were found in any numbers, today we found them on fence posts where the lichen was growing and they appeared to be grazing. Ivy flowers seem to be a favourite too.

claude_crabbe's picture

Ladybird Diets

There are now 46 species of British Ladybirds recognised within the UK. Diet is dependent on the species with some eating lichen, mosses and fungi as their primary food sources whereas others are considered carnivorousness such as the seven spot. However if one considers an aphid it is mostly going to consist of plant juices the ladybird is primarily going to have a gut system capable of digesting plant material. As aphid populations die back for the winter it is likely to leave the ladybirds without their preferred source of nutrition, especially if their own population numbers are high. Under these famine conditions it is not inconceivable that the 7-spot ladybirds would be forced to chose alternative (and probably less nutritious food sources). This is a very interesting observation worthy of further investigation.

Refugee's picture


I have seen them drinking sap from a scratch on a Hog-weed stem.
It surprised me.


rimo's picture

An interesting sighting -

An interesting sighting - none of the 47 British ladybirds are known to feed on lichens, although the 7-spot is one of the more generalist species, and is known to take fungi from time to time.

Ladybirds are known to drink, so they may have been taking on water for the long overwintering period. At this time of year, ladybirds are stocking up on carbohydrates for the winter, particularly nectar - hence the liking for ivy flowers and sap.

Record your ladybird sightings!

claude_crabbe's picture

British Species

It is interesting to note that the British Ladybird Survey reported on one of its web-pages observations of Pine and Kidney-spot ladybirds nibbling at lichens and grazing on green algae on tree trunks and questions whether these are secondary sources for them. (

I note that the British Ladybird Survey website reports 46 species of British ladybirds plus the Harlequin ladybird as an invasive species.

I presume we are at the point where the Harlequin Ladybird is now to be considered as naturalised making up the 47th species on the basis that there is a sustainable population reproducing locally or is the Harlequin an inventive species bolstering the UK population by migration from elsewhere?

rimo's picture

Overall number is largely a

Overall number is largely a matter of semantics - we went with 47 resident species for the ladybird atlas. Of these, at least one is probably extinct (plus another which was extinct for 60 years until this year), at least 5 which have arrived and established within living memory, but which doesn't include several species for which we have only historic records, or which have been introduced, intentionally or otherwise, some with a limited degree of establishment. The Harlequin certainly does arrive by immigration, but this is no different to many other ladybird species, such as the 7-spot & 13-spot.

I agree, there is some anecdotal evidence that some species may utilise lichen or algae, and it's definitely worth keeping an eye on, but there is as yet no concrete evidence that they are actually eating. Nothing has yet been found in gut content analysis, or grazing trails such as are left by grazing species (eg 24-spot).

Record your ladybird sightings!

Peter Pearson's picture

Sorry Rimo you have confused me

Over the past few years I have been recording ladybird sightings for the Essex Ladybird Survey being conducted by Paul Mabbott. During this time several large explosions in populations of 7-Spots have been recorded on the N.E.Essex coast with movement east to west along the rivers Stour and Colne.
I have always been convinced that this is due to migration, but advised that it was due to build up of inland ladybirds, as in your comment on this forum 9.9.2011.
However the confusion comes with your commment on 13.11.2011 when you said ladybirds including 7-Spots arrive by migration.
I am not trying to catch anyone out, just interested to know whether my observations over many years have been of immigrants arriving from the continent. Incidently these observations are not just over the period of the survey, but from life-long (65yrs+) interest in natural interest and residence either at Walton-on-the-Naze as a boy and young man or near the coast during the rest of this time.

rimo's picture

The vast majority of the big

The vast majority of the big groups which tend to occur in August are inland individuals dispersing looking for food - most stop at the coast, but a small fraction keep going out to sea. This means there is some migration - that's how the Harlequin arrived, for instance, and how the 13-spot recolonised Britain this year - but not the big numbers that you mention.

Record your ladybird sightings!

Peter Pearson's picture

Still about in large numbers

We are still seeing large numbers of 7-spot and Harlequins about. On a mile long streach of a walk on the 21.11.11 casually counting with the aid of a clicker and not stopping to search a total of 318 7-spots, 137 Harlequins and 11 Pines were recorded along with 4 common wasps. The mild weather is obviously delaying hibernation.