Meadow Ladybird      Rhyzobius litura

Other Names:  Small Brown Ladybird,  Pointed-keeled Rhyzobius

A common species of grassland habitats.

Identification       Length  2.5-3.0mm

A mostly pale brown, long-bodied oval species with long antennae.

Meadow Ladybird has a reputation for being easily confused with Epaulet Ladybird but I consider the majority to be identifiable in the field.

The ground colour varies from pale buff yellow to light oak, with a few being darker, a deep chestnut, even blackish.

The ground colour is usually uniform, lacking the strong pattern contrasts of Epaulet Ladybird, although a few have paler grey wing case tips and some have paler sides to the wing cases.

Many have no dark markings, but many others have a variable black or dark brown U-shape mark on the rear of the wing cases and a variable dark mark on the wing cases behind the centre of the pronotum.

The sides of the pronotum (between the head and wing cases) are gently curved, often still widening as they reach the wing cases.

Wing Case Pattern

Many are plain and unmarked, ranging from pale buff to oak coloured, occasionally reddish.

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Very pale with black eyes only feature
         Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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May Day Farm, The Brecks, Suffolk
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Pigleys Wood, North Walsham. Norfolk
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Clayton Hill, Lee Valley, Essex
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                       Uniform oak colour
Bowers Water, Lee Valley, Essex

The classic colour pattern has a dark U-shape mark at the rear of the wing cases, dark brown or black. These markings can be curved or angular.

There is only one dark line running along the length of each wing case (usually two lines on each wing case on Epaulet Ladybird).

Some also have a black or dark brown patch at the top of the wing cases behind the pronotum.

This can be square, triangular or semi-circular.

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Filsham Reedbed, Sussex
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Upshire, Essex
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Upshire, Essex
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Fishers Green, Essex

Some show a contrasting paler rear to the wing cases, with the paler colouring extending along the outer edge of the wing cases, often on the outside of the dark markings.

A few have a neat pale edge around the complete outside of the wing cases, leaving a darker oval centre.

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Waltham Abbey, Essex
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Upshire, Essex
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With paler grey sides and rear edge to the wing cases outside the black pattern.  Upshire, Essex
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Fishers Green, Essex
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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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Sandwich Bay, East Kent

A few are much darker, a deep chestnut colour and occasionally almost black. The darkest Meadow Ladybirds are plain, lacking the dark and light patches, including light shoulder patches, seen on Epaulet Ladybird.

There is often a hint of the dark rear U-shape marking.

Some show darker wing cases contrasting with a paler head and pronotum.

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Cornmill Meadows, Lee Valley, Essex
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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex

A few darker specimens have an obvious pale outer edge to the wing cases.

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Pett Levels, Sussex
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Pett Levels, Sussex

Pronotum shape

The pronotum shape can help in the identification process but is not always diagnostic.

The majority have gently curved sides that are still curving as they reach the wing cases.

A few have the strong right angled corners typical of Epaulet Ladybird but do not often show the almost parallel straight edges shown by Epaulet Ladybird.

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Sawbridgeworth, Herts
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Gently curved outer edge
                  Upshire, Essex
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Sharp angled corner to pronotum
                              Upshire, Essex

Antennae Shape

The shape and length of the antennae are distinctive and a very useful way to rule out look-alike beetle species (Epaulet Ladybird has similar antennae).

The clubbed antennae are slightly longer than the head width. There is usually a distinct bend at the half way point. This combined with the antennae thinness and the fact that they are often held to the side gives them a resemblance to a wire coat hanger.

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Antennae held forward but still with distinct kink at halfway point.
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Antennae held in typical coat hanger pose
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Right hand antenna held straight but kink still visible in left hand one
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Both antennae held straight, but slight curve still visible

The above photograph is the only one of several hundred that I have of live Meadow Ladybirds that shows almost straight antennae.

When searching for photos on the internet, there many images of dead pinned Meadow Ladybirds from collections that have straight antennae held at 90 degrees from each other. Whilst this is not impossible on live specimens it is atypical. This is not representative of how this species usually looks whilst alive. 

Mixed Photographs

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With 16-spot Ladybird
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With numerous 16-spot Ladybirds and one Angle-spot Ladybird
With 24-spot and 16-spot Ladybirds
May Day Farm, The Brecks, Suffolk

Variation and Forms

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Habitat

This is a common species of grassland, often found with 16-spot and 24-spot Ladybirds whilst sweep netting.

It can be found by eye, but patience or luck is required.

Often in drier habitats such as hayfields and can be especially common in coastal areas.

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Grassland
Upshire, Essex
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Herb rich grassland
Gunpowder Park, Lee Valley, Essex
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Dry grassland
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex

Occurs in damper sites, such as edges of ponds and ditches and can also be found in Nettle patches

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Grass on edge of pond             Upshire, Essex
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Grassy hollow with nettles      Upshire, Essex
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Streamside grasses and herbage
Cornmill Meadows, Lee Valley, Essex
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Slightly damp flush in area of dry grassland
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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Patch of Black Horehound
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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Burdock seedheads
Silvermeade, Lee Valley, Herts
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Nettle patch
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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Coastal grassland with nettles and thistles
    Otterspool, Liverpool, South Lancashire
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Coastal grassland with nettles and thistles
    Otterspool, Liverpool, South Lancashire

Meadow Ladybird occasionally occurs in gardens, although it is usually less frequent than Epaulet Ladybird, which is often abundant in many gardens.

I have found Meadow Ladybird in flower beds whilst clearing out old Daylilys Hemerocallis.

I have beaten two Meadow Ladybirds from Euonymus, although this compares to several hundred Epaulet Ladybirds.

I have seen very small numbers of 16-spot and 24-spot Ladybirds in evergreen garden shrubs, so grassland specialists obviously can turn up in this habitat.

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          Euonymus shrub
Waltham Abbey, Essex

Look-alike Species

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Unidentified beetle swept from grassland

I swept the above unidentified beetle from grassland along side several Meadow Ladybirds. It was a similar size and the same colour as a pale individual but it did not quite look right. When I looked closer it was obvious that the antennae were too long for any ladybird species and they were held out straight and to the front. 

This is typical of many other types of beetles, including the Leaf Beetles Chrysomelidae, several of which can be confused with various ladybird species. Checking the antennae is often the quickest way to rule out look-alike species.

Additional photographs

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Beaten from Euonymus shrub
           Waltham Abbey, Essex
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Otterspool, Liverpool, South Lancashire
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Pevensey Levels, E. Sussex
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Otterspool, Liverpool, South Lancashire
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Pevensey Levels, E. Sussex
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Otterspool, Liverpool, South Lancashire
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Waltham Abbey, Essex
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Upshire, Essex
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Upshire, Essex
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Upshire, Essex
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Upshire, Essex
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Upshire, Essex
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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
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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
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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
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Silvermeade, Lee Valley, Herts
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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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Waltham Abbey, Essex
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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
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Sandwich Bay, East Kent