Friday 2nd September 2011
The 13-spot ladybird, (Hippodamia tredecimpunctata), was always a rare ladybird in Britain and was thought to have gone extinct in the country in 1952.
Richard Comont, a PhD student at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and part of the UK Ladybird Survey found a 13-spot ladybird larva during a recent BioBlitz organised by East Devon District Council on the Axe Estuary Wetlands.
|13-spot ladybird (Hippodamia tredecimpunctata) © R Comont|
Richard said, “As soon as I saw the larva I was fairly sure it was a 13-spot – it’s something I’ve dreamt of finding! It’s such a significant discovery that I took it back to rear it to adulthood to make absolutely sure, and when it finally hatched into an adult I could confirm it as the first native 13-spot for 60 years!”
There have been occasional sightings of 13-spots in the years since 1953, as individual ladybirds crossed the Channel, and 10 confirmed sightings in the last decade along the south coast of Britain sparked hopes that this beetle might be on the verge of making a comeback. This discovery, of a larval 13-spot ladybird, is the first breeding record of the beetle since 1952 and may well be the first British larva ever found.
|13-spot ladybird larva (Hippodamia tredecimpunctata) © R Comont|
“We organised the BioBlitz event as a way to showcase the amazing diversity of wildlife to be found on the Axe Estuary Wetlands,” explained James Chubb Education Ranger for East Devon District Council. “With the experts we had on the day I knew that we would find loads of really interesting and unusual creatures, but never for a second did I think we’d make a discovery of this magnitude!”
“The Axe Estuary Wetlands is well known for its birdwatching facilities and is a hotspot for twitching, but it looks like we might need to install ladybird hides in the future!”
Andrew Whitehouse, Conservation Officer for South West England at Buglife – The Invertebrate Conservation Trust commented “How exciting to rediscover this ladybird breeding in Devon after being declared extinct in the 1950s – it makes you wonder what else is out there waiting to be rediscovered!”
“Many of Britain’s invertebrate populations are declining at a drastic rate – so it is great to have some good news.”
The 13-spot ladybird has a similar pattern to the familiar 7-spot ladybird, with between 7 and 15 black spots on a background of orange-red. It’s smaller than a 7-spot ladybird, as well as being longer and thinner, more teardrop-shaped than round.