Black specimens with red front
This group includes Red-rumped Ladybird and the males of four other Scymnus species:
Oak, Heath, Schmidt's and Dusky Ladybirds.
The wing cases and rear of the pronotum are mostly black on each species.
The legs, face and part of the front of the pronotum are orangey brown (red).
I have not yet seen red fronted male forms of Heath or Dusky Ladybirds but have seen several all dark female forms of each, suggesting that the all dark forms are commoner or easier to locate.
It is possible that some males of these three species have an all dark colour form, resembling females.
This is a distinctive species, as the rear edge of the each wing case is infused with a browny-red patch. The patch can be bright and obvious or dull and tricky to see.
The red front on the pronotum varies from a slim line (female) similar to Heath Ladybird, to an extensive patch (male) similar to Dusky Ladybird.
It is an elongate and relatively large species.
This is an elusive species of wet habitats, although it also spreads out into drier areas and can be locally abundant.
Best searched for with a sweep net.
Reddish rear wing cases
Typical male pattern: Extensive red front
Typical female pattern: Narrow red front
Oak Ladybird can also show a faint reddish tip to the wing cases but is a very different shape and occurs in a different habitat (see below).
This is a small and rounded species, with a short oval shape and highly domed "shoulder" area. The wing cases are all dark but the red abdomen tip is usually extending beyond the wing cases.
This feature is clearly visible if the underside is examined.
The amount of red on the pronotum front varies.
Strongly associated with oak trees and best found with a beating tray.
Visible red abdomen tip
Red abdomen tip
Extensive red front
Narrow red front
Very similar to Schmidt's Ladybird, though with even less orange on the front of the pronotum. The orange is reduced to just the front corners and on some specimens is very reduced, hardly visible to the naked eye.
Only the front of the face is orangey-red, with the rest of the head black.
A difficult species to find, it is associated with semi-natural grassland, often with dry, sandy soils.
Best found with a sweep net.
The majority are unspotted, so resemble Heath Ladybird, all dark with an orangey-red face and narrow leading edge to the pronotum (section behind the head). The red on the front of the pronotum is slightly more extensive than typical Heath, with the two red corners meeting along the front edge.
The diagnostic feature is a groove along the centre of the metasternum.
Another feature is the presence of strong puncture on the wing cases forming lines resembling striae.
It is a long oval shape, similar to Angle-spot Ladybird.
This is a grassland species associated with moss and is very elusive.
Best searched for with a sweep net.
Narrow orange front to pronotum not reaching rear corners. Orange face and legs. Disorganised lines of punctures visible on front of right wing case.
Groove on metasternum
Although all dark female Dusky Ladybirds are very difficult to separate from Heath Ladybirds, males of this species are actually quite distinctive and easy to identify but past and current confusion with Heath Ladybird has caused the severe under recording of Dusky Ladybird.
The orange on the pronotum is very extensive with just a small black area at the base. The shape of this black area varies, but it often has a pointed front.
Whilst not featuring in any current field guides, this species is probably quite common in parts of London and the Thames Estuary.
Habitat includes dry vegetation in gardens and brownfield sites.
Can be searched for with a sweep net or by beating low vegetation and shrubs.
Red-rumped and Oak Ladybirds are the two species that sometimes show a similar extent of red on the pronotum, so care needs to be taken to eliminate these two species before claiming Dusky Ladybird.
Red-rumped usually shows red tips to the wing cases, although this feature can be reduced. It is also a different shape with a longer oval body.
Oak Ladybird will usually show a red tip to the underside of the abdomen, especially on brightly marked individuals. Although it is a short oval species, it is a subtly different shape to Dusky Ladybird, with a highly domed "shoulder" area.