Horseshoe Ladybird  Clitostethus arcuatus

This is an elusive species. Mark Hows and I travelled to Abney Park, Middlesex (twice), Kidderminster, Worcs and Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent on unsuccessful trips to find Horseshoe Ladybird. Each site consisted of shaded woodland with an Ivy and/or Holly understory.

I eventually found one on my local patch at Fishers Green, Essex, in ivy on a tree trunk, on 7th October 2019.

I found my second in an ivy covered hedge in Upshire, Essex on 17th September 2020.

I found my third on an ivy covered fence at Whitewebbs Park, Middlesex on 24th March 2021.

Identification        Length  1.2-1.5mm

This is a cream and brown species, although the intensity of the markings can vary. The horseshoe marking seems to be consistent making this a distinctive species when seen well.

There is often a second fainter horseshoe mark, similar to a double rainbow, towards the rear of the wing cases.

This is a very small species, so could easily be overlooked. When I finally found one, I was very sure what it was sitting stationary in my umbrella but I was not 100% certain until I had taken a photo and checked the image on the back of the camera monitor (a hand lens would also do this task).

The first two I saw were probably typical individuals with brown wing cases and mostly cream coloured head and pronotum.

The third one was much darker with the wing cases, head and pronotum almost blackish with distinctive cream cheek patches (outer edge of pronotum).

I confidently stated that this tiny, dark beetle was not a ladybird and only took a photo out of curiosity expecting a species of flea beetle, so I was very surprised when I saw the distinctive horseshoe markings on my camera monitor.

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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
clitostethus 450.jpg
Photo by Mark Hows
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
Upshire, Essex
Upshire, Essex
Upshire, Essex
Upshire, Essex
Upshire, Essex
A very dark individual          Whitewebbs, Middlesex
Whitewebbs, Middlesex
Whitewebbs, Middlesex

On typical individuals the cream coloured legs and pale front contrast with the dark abdomen when viewed from underneath.

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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
Upshire, Essex
Upshire, Essex
With two Dot Ladybirds
Upshire, Essex
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Extremely small and easy to overlook                                   Whitewebbs, Middlesex


This has traditionally been considered a very scarce species, but records are currently increasing. This is probably due to a better understanding of the habitat requirements of this species.

An important factor is knowing that the Horseshoe Ladybird feeds on Whitefly Aleyrodidae and so habitats need to contain this prey species.



Whitefly on Ash
Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent

All the sites I have visited looking for this species were in shaded woodland with a lot of understory, especially Holly and Ivy, were it can be found overwintering.

The one I found at Fishers Green, Essex was beaten from Ivy growing on a tree trunk in a small but dark shaded patch of woodland.

I have not managed to find any more Horseshoe Ladybirds in this patch, despite continued searching.

Ivy covered tree trunk    Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
Ivy covered tree trunk     Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex

I found my second in an ivy-covered hedge in a private garden in Upshire, Essex.

I have recorded many Epaulet and Ivy Ladybirds from this hedge over the years but despite regular coverage, it took me two further years, until I found another one in this location.

Ivy covered hedge     Upshire, Essex

My third was a surprise find on an ivy covered fence in woodland at Whitewebbs Park, Middlesex.

The surrounding woodland contained areas of Ivy, a Holly and Yew understorey, with several patches of Honeysuckle.

                                                Ivy covered fence
Flash Lane Aqueduct, Whitewebbs, Middlesex
Ash tree with Whitefly   Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent

No Horse-shoe Ladybirds were seen on this visit, although they had been reported shortly before.

In 2022 I found a second location at Fishers Green, Essex. This time on an Ivy covered tree trunk on the edge of a narrow lane.
Ivy covered tree trunk   Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex

Whilst this species is often reported wintering in Holly and Ivy, in autumn it has been reported feeding on Whitefly on Honeysuckle in the same areas.

They can also be found in gardens, although I have not managed this yet. Again the associasion with Whitefly is important and it has been reported with this species on Greater Celendine Chelidonium majus as well as the evergreen shrub Viburnum tinus.

Looking at the distribution of this species on the NBN Atlas shows a few distinct clusters. This is probably observer bias and shows the areas where a recorder has discovered the skill set to locate this species. 

The other possibility is that this is not a very mobile species and it does have a patchy distribution. Hopefully as more people search for this species we will discover its true distribution. 

Look-alike Species

When seen well Horseshoe Ladybird is unlikely to be confused with other inconspicuous ladybirds. 

However when searching for this species in typical habitat with a beating tray it is common to find numerous small early instar true bugs. Whilst these are a very different shape, many of them are the same size and cream and brown colour as Horseshoe Ladybirds.

Care needs to be taken not to overlook Horseshoe Ladybirds amongst these. 

Early instar bug with similar colouring to Horseshoe Ladybird

Additional Images

In September 2022, I tapped a regular Ivy-covered hedge in Upshire, Essex and found lots of inconspicuous ladybirds. I spent several minutes photographing and counting Dot and Ivy Ladybirds. I looked carefully for Horseshoe Ladybird as I had seen one previously in this spot and was targeting this species but failed to find any.

Later at home I was editing the photos and was stunned to see a slightly out of focus Horseshoe Ladybird in the back of shot with a Dot Ladybird.

This shows how easy it is to overlook this tiny and subtle species.

An overlooked Horseshoe Ladybird with Dot Ladybird

I was able to return two days later and I retapped the bit of hedge where I had returned the mixed group of ladybirds and remarkably found another, or probably the same Horsehoe Ladybird and was able to get a good series of photographs.

Upshire, North Essex
Upshire, North Essex
Upshire, North Essex
In September 2022 I found a very dark individual at Fishers Green, North Essex.
I was photographing an Epaulet Ladybird in my umbrella having just beaten some Ivy growing on a tree trunk.
Whilst doing this I became aware of a tiny beetle nearby.
I thought it looked like a Dot Ladybird, but it seemed rather elongate. It was walking like a ladybird, but I was still not sure what it was. I took its photo and saw on my camara monitor an all-dark Horseshoe Ladybird, with a clear and distinctive horseshoe mark.
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex