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FURTHER LADYBIRD ARTICLES:     Orange Ladybird | Seven-spot Ladybird | Water Ladybird

THE WATER LADYBIRD IN CUMBRIAWater Ladybird - winter and summer

This fascinating ladybird would be worth searching for during May/June and again in August/September. As it is one of the most habitat specific species, confined to wetland where reed mace and phragmites reed grow, a directed search could be productive.

It is an abundant species in south and central England, but as it is at its northernmost limit there have been only a handful of records from South Cumbria. All of these have been from the coastal strip bordering Morecambe Bay, where the mild, moist climate should suit it.

At only 3 to 4 mm long, this ladybird generally overwinters squeezed between a dead leaf and stem of its host plant. Its body is flatter and more elongated than other species, helping it to squash in. It emerges from its pupa in late summer as a buff coloured beetle, having 19 black spots on the elytra and 6 on the pronotum.

Unlike most other ladybird species it does not develop a red or orange warning colour within a few hours of emerging, but retains its pale colour throughout the winter months. This provides ideal camouflage against the dead vegetation on which it rests. Only in late April or early May does it develop a red colouration, when it becomes active again and moves on to fresh green vegetation in search of its aphid food supply.

A further interesting adaptation of the Water Ladybird is a limited ability to swim! Spending the winter some 6 to 18 inches above the water level it is vulnerable to flooding. If the water level does rise, the ladybird floats off and, by using its legs and any currents, moves to a new plant. Flying to a new site would consume large amounts of its energy reserves - "swimming" is presumably a more efficient way.

Please let Tullie House know if you find this ladybird during the summer (address above).