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Epaulet Ladybird  Rhyzobius chrysomeloides

Other names: Arboreal Ladybird   Round-keeled Rhyzobius

This is the commonest ladybird in my recording area, occurring in pine trees, Ivy and ornamental evergreen shrubs.

It is also the only species that I can find, almost at will, on any day of the year.

It occurs in every local garden with ornamental shrubs that I have searched.

It can easily be found wintering in Ivy, using a beating tray. A useful project during the quiet months of November-February.

The colour contrast between the light and dark markings show up best on photographs of live specimens taken outside in natural light, using a digital camera with a macro-lens. Studio photographs of pinned specimens tend to bleach out much of the subtle colour details.
Identification          Length  2.5-3.5mm

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

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

The ground colour varies from light oak to deep chestnut.


An obvious feature is a pale curved stripe across the top of the wing cases.

This is sometimes reduced to an orange patch on the shoulder areas, resembling epaulets.

In the most distinctive individuals the curved stripe continues as two stripes running either side of the wing case centre line, forming a pair of tramlines.

The outer wing cases typically have a shield shaped area of dark lines surrounding the pale shoulder curve and tramlines.

This usually includes two vertical lines on each wing case, although these can be fused or broken.

The outer edge has a distinctive curved S-shape, with a scalloped indentation in the middle, a bulge towards the rear resembling a saddlebag and an angled upper corner near the shoulder area. 

The centre rear often has an anchor shaped mark, with a tooth-like projection on each side contrasting with a pale area on the wing case tips.

The pronotum (between the head and wing cases) have straight and nearly parallel sided edges to the rear. 

Wing case pattern

The most distinctive individuals have a pale curved stripe running from shoulder to shoulder with a pair of pale tramlines running down either side of the wing case centre. 

This common pattern is very obvious and eye catching and is often the form that attracts an observer when first discovering this species. These are unlike any Meadow Ladybirds and are very easy to identify.

Very distinctive pale central lines diverging slightly
                                                  Upshire, North Essex
Central lines running parallel to each other
                                    Upshire, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Turnford, Lee Valley, Hertfordshire
Waltham Abbey, North Essex

On some the pale tramlines are broken or irregular.

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Tramlines separated from shoulder stripe by dark markings
                                                Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire
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   Indistinct broken pattern  Broxbourne, Hertfordshire

Some have a brighter orange patch, resembling an epaulet, on the outer side of the curved shoulder stripe.

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Waltham Abbey, North Essex
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Fishers Green, North Essex

A small number have the orange patches merging and extending over the top part of the wing cases.

Upshire, North Essex
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex

Sometimes the two tramlines are fused into an extra wide central pale area continuing downwards from the top orange band.

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Upshire, North Essex

Some Epaulet Ladybirds are mostly dark but unlike the darkest Meadow Ladybirds they are not uniformly dark. 

There is usually a ghostly hint of the pale shoulder curve and the pair of tramlines running down either side of the wing case centre line.

The typical dark markings are also usually present, although often obscured.

The dark tooth-like projections often contrast with the pale, often grey, wing case tips.

Dark with pale shoulder patches
     Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Dark with hint of epaulet and central lines pattern
                  Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex

Overlying the light markings is a distinctive, though variable, dark area that is broadly shield shaped.


The typical pattern has two vertical lines on each wing case.

There is often an anchor shaped mark at the centre rear with a dark line running up the centre.

The outer edge has a scalloped shape near the top, with a bulge further down ending in a tooth shaped point contrasting with the pale rear .

Upshire, North Essex
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Typical shield shaped dark markings with double outer line
                                                                 Exeter, South Devon
Anchor shape extended and resembling Norman helmet with nose guard        Exeter, South Devon

On some the black markings are fused together creating a solidly dark shield shaped area on the rear wing cases.

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Upshire, North Essex
Upshire, North Essex

The trickiest Epaulet Ladybirds to identify have the dark markings reduced.

However there are a few useful features to check.

The angled shoulder mark,

the bulging saddlebag shape at the rear

and the secondary inner line.

Meadow Ladybird only has a single vertical line on each wing case, which is straighter and stops at or near the half way point.

Upshire, North Essex
Upshire, North Essex
Upshire, North Essex
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
Very reduced markings but the three main markings present
                                                     Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Punta Prima, Menorca, Spain

A small number lack the second inner line and these can be very similar to some Meadow Ladybirds, although there are still a few useful features that often help.

The outside shape of the black line is often distinctive with the S-shape formed by the scalloped middle part and bulge on the lower part, with the whole line stretching towards the top corner. I think the presence of the black line in the top corner is likely to be an important identification feature and might prove to be a diagnostic, I have never seen this on Meadow Ladybird.

The central panel is often a bright orange colour, with a series of thin darker horizontal lines.

On darker brown individuals there is often a hint of the brighter orange shoulder patch or epaulet.

The typical straight sided pronotum edge is also often present.

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Upshire, North Essex
Upshire, North Essex
Brill, Buckinghamshire
Upshire, North Essex
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Upshire, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Upshire, North Essex

Recently emerged individuals are a pale fawn or orange colour with faint markings that when looked at carefully still follow the typical pattern.

Probably recently emerged with pale markings                               Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Recently emerged with very pale hint of typical pattern
                                                         Upshire, North Essex

When photographing a suspected Epaulet Ladybird, it is best to get a photograph from above, as this shows the pattern most clearly.

A side on photograph will not show a subtle pattern well, although it will still be useful, as 

other features may be apparent.

Indistinct dark and light markings
 Braunton Burrows, North Devon
The same individual as above, showing hint of the epaulet stripes and tramlines, as well as pale grey wing case tips

Pronotum Shape

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

The majority show a strong curve at the corner forming a right angle with a straight edged 

rear section.

The rear section is often nearly parallel sided.

Some are more curved and similar to Meadow Ladybird but most show at least a short straight sided rear section.

Meadow Ladybird usually has a gently curved pronotum, lacking the right angled corner and still curving as it reaches the wing cases.

Very straight sided pronotum
Typical pronotum shape

Antennae Shape

The clubbed antennae are thin, longer than the head width and often held towards the side.

They usually show a distinctive kink at the half way point, resembling a wire coat hanger.

This is the same as Meadow Ladybirds and is typical of ladybirds, so is a good way to rule out look alike beetle species from other family groups.

When disturbed Epaulet Ladybird often sit still with their legs and antennae tucked under the body, so need to be left until they start walking about before this feature can be checked.

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Abbey Gardens, Waltham Abbey, North Essex

Mixed Photographs

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Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
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Upshire, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
With 7-spot Ladybird
With 22-spot and 7-spot Ladybirds
With Orange and Cream-spot Ladybirds
With Cream-spot Ladybird
With Cream-streaked Ladybird
With Larch Ladybird
With 10-spot Ladybirds
With 22-spot Ladybird
woodbine viburnum_8588.JPG
With Ivy Ladybird
With 22-spot and Forestier's Ladybirds
Beaten from Ivy alongside Opilo mollis and Pogonocherus hispidus                   Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
With two Lesser Thorn-tipped Longhorns
Upshire, North Essex

Variation and Forms

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Epaulet Ladybird can be found in a wide range of habitats.

They are best searched for using a beating tray (or umbrella).

I have found them by eye on and in garden wheelie bins, containing shrub prunings.

Unlike the slightly scarcer Red-flanked, Ivy and Meadow Ladybirds, I have never found this species by eye on vegetation. It is cryptically coloured and may keep out of sight underneath the vegetation.

Epaulet Ladybird can be found through out the year and is often easy to locate during the winter months, except during frosty, windy or rainy weather.

There is sometimes a drop in numbers in the early spring. April can be the trickiest month to find them, presumably the wintering adults have died off and the next generation has yet to emerge.

Numbers then increase during the summer, with this species becoming abundant in the autumn. July to September can be a very good months to search for Epaulet Ladybirds as they spread into a myriad of available habitats.

Epaulet Ladybirds can be common in pine trees, in small copses or individual trees.

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Plantation pine tree  Upshire, North Essex
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Garden pine tree  Upshire, North Essex
Small pine tree     Braunton Burrows, North Devon
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Pine tree     May Day Farm, The Brecks, West Suffolk
Pine tree     Turnford, Lee Valley, Hertfordshire
Pine copse         Harlow, North Essex
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Amongst pine needles           Upshire, North Essex

They can also be common on Ivy in woodland situations.

In the Lee Valley and around the northern edge of Epping Forest they can easily be found in winter by searching Ivy growing on tree trunks.

Sheltered green lane with plenty of Ivy; ideal habitat
                   Puck Lane, Waltham Abbey, North Essex
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Ivy.   Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
Ivy       Darland Banks, Gillingham, East Kent
Ivy    Turnford, Lee Valley, Hertfordshire
 Ivy covered tree trunk                               Leigh Delamere services, North Wiltshire
Ivy       Roding Valley Meadows, South Essex
Ivy      Roding Valley Meadows, South Essex
Ivy covered building   Hooks Marsh, Lee Valley, North Essex
Ivy covered wall   Harlow, North Essex

In December 2020 I found Epaulet Ladybirds in the Holly understorey in Epping Forest for the first time and then at Hainault Forest CP in 2021.

I have previously found Orange and Forestier's Ladybirds in this habitat.

Holly        Fairmead, Epping Forest, South Essex
Holly        Fairmead, Epping Forest, South Essex
Holly         Hainault Forest CP, South Essex

Yew is another evergreen shrub that can be successfully searched for Epaulet Ladybirds.

I also occasionally find them in Holm Oak.

Yew            Rushy Mead, Lee Valley, North Essex
Yew        Hainault Forest CP. South Essex
Yew     Ospringe, East Kent
Holm Oak       Upshire, North Essex
Can also occur in gorse bushes
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Gorse bush     Warren Hill, The Brecks, West Suffolk

Epaulet Ladybirds can be abundant in gardens, both rural and urban.

They can be found on Ivy covered fences and on a variety of evergreen shrubs, especially Euonymus, Viburnum tinus, Firethorn, Privet and Cotoneaster.

I have also occasionally found them on Oleaster Elaeagnus and Berberis.

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Euonymus.      Upshire, North Essex
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Euonymus.    Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Euonymus hedge.   Abbey Gardens, Lee Valley, North Essex
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Firethorn.  Upshire, North Essex

Oleaster Elaeagnus      Waltham Abbey, North Essex
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Privet hedge     Exeter, South Devon

Epaulet Ladybirds can easily be found in garden wheelie bins that have been filled with the prunings from these shrubs.

They can also be found in deciduous shrubs, including Weigela, Dogwood and Guelder-rose.
I have also beaten them from oak, Hawthorn and Blackthorn.
Weigela.   Upshire, North Essex
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Guelder-rose.  Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
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Oak tree     Potkiln Wood, Epping Forest, North Essex
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Blackthorn hedge     Canvey Wick NR, South Essex
Hawthorn shrub   Brill, Buckinghamshire

During July 2020 Mark Hows and I were beating either side of a foot path at Fishers Green, Essex and we were finding Epaulet Ladybirds in almost all pieces of vegetation we sampled, including oak trees, thistles, burdock, White Bryony and Black Horehound.

Oak tree      Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
White Bryony   Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
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Burdock       Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
I have also tapped Epaulet Ladybird out of Common Mallow
Common Mallow     Canvey Wick NR, South Essex

I have very rarely swept Epaulet Ladybird from grassy verges on the edge of hedgerows and in October 2023 I tapped two from an isolated patch of nettles in an area of chalky grassland in Icklingham, Suffolk. This patch was surrounding a leaking water trough, so formed a minature oasis in an otherwise dry environment.

   Isolated nettle patch in chalky field
Icklingham, The Brecks, West Suffolk
Rough grassy area between track and woodland edge
                 Gunpowder Park, Sewardstone, South Essex
In 2024 I swept an Epaulet Ladybird from a nettle patch at Fishers Green, North Essex alongside a Meadow Ladybird; these two species are occasionally found together.
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Nettle patch      Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex

Additional photograph gallery available in Confusing Species Groups chapter (see header at top of page).

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