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Willow Ladybird  Scymnus limbatus

Other names: Bordered Ladybird, Bordered Scymnus

Willow Ladybird is the most elusive of all the resident ladybird species in the UK, even harder to locate than the much sort after Horseshoe and False-spot Ladybirds.

This species is associated with willows and poplars in wetland habitats, but there are very few recent records, whilst photographs of live specimens taken in the UK are extremely rare.

Although the habitat is well understood, this is a variable species and the identification criteria are rather confused.

The only one I have seen was an atypical individual found by Mark Hows in Suffolk.

Identification        Length  1.6-2.0mm

Willow Ladybird is a typical, well proportioned Scymnus species, with a quite long oval body shape.

The antennae are shorter than the head width. 

The legs and antennae vary from pale brown to dark brown.

A useful feature is the pattern of the elytra hairs; these have a strong swirling pattern to them, with the hairs at the very rear of the wing cases running in a perpendicular direction.

Conversely, on the few photographs I have found of live specimens taken in the field, the wing cases can appear hairless, with the specimen having a shiny oily appearance, similar to some Black Ladybirds.

Although images of this species can be found on the internet, many are of continental origin and may show forms not found in the UK.

Care needs to be taken to check the credentials of each posted image.

There is a large variation ranging from dark to light forms.

The Finnish website has examples of these variations.

The darkest forms appear all black but on closer inspection can show dark brown legs and antennae and also a dark brown sheen on the centre of the wing cases.

The lightest forms are distinctive, as they have a pale brown pronotum as well as predominantly light brown wing cases which contrast with a black head.

The medium (or typical) form seems to be the dominant form in the UK, although with so few records it is not possible to be sure of this.

These are mostly black with brown legs and antennae and a distinct reddish-brown patch on each wing case.

This form is confusable with Red-patched Ladybirds, although there are structural differences between the two species.

Pashford Poors Fen Individual

The only one I have seen was found by Mark Hows at Pashford Poors Fen, Suffolk on 10th July 2017.

This was in typical habitat. An area of tall waterside vegetation with willow trees in a fenland setting.

This individual was very similar to Conifer Ladybird but did not look quite right structurally for that species.

I have had a useful discussion with David Williams about this specimen. David has some excellent photos of Willow Ladybird taken in Shropshire and is one of a small number of people with field experience of this species.

He has suggested that this is an recently hatched individual still developing full adult colouration.

I was concerned that the distinctive whorled hair pattern is not visible on any of the photos but David explained how the hairs seem to be rather fine and are very difficult to capture on a photograph with out careful manipulation of the lighting conditions and many photos show a distinctive sheen to the wing cases. This is particularly evident in Marks' photo shown below.

I had originally speculated that the brown underside to the wing cases ruled out Conifer Ladybird but David pointed out that Conifer Ladybird can show brown undersides; this may also be age related as the majority do seem to have black undersides to the wing cases.

scymnus limbatus_6618.JPG
Pashford Poors Fen, Suffolk
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Pashford Poors Fen, Suffolk
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Photo by Mark Hows
Pashford Poors Fen, Suffolk
scymnus limbatus_6593.JPG
Pale brown underside to pronotum and wingcases

Typical Form

The medium or typical form is the type most likely to occur in the UK, although as there are so few published photographs of live UK specimens this is not certain.

These are mostly black with brown legs and antennae.

Each wing case has a reddish-brown patch in the centre.

The size and shape of the patches are variable and some individuals can resemble Red-patched Ladybird.


The best set of photographs of a live UK specimen were taken by Russell Miller, found at East Reservoir Nature Reserve, Stock Newington, London on 15th April 2015 and published on the ispot website

There are also some excellent photos on the PDF: A Guide to Micro Ladybirds of Shropshire by Maria Justamond and David W. Williams

Dark Form

The darkest forms appear all black, although on closer inspection the legs and antennae are dark brown.

There is also often a dark brown sheen on the centre of the wing cases.

The few examples I have seen on the internet have all been from Scandinavia, so this may be a melanistic form that occurs in cooler climates and may not occur in the UK.

Nedved and Djuric (2022) state that only all black specimens occur in Norway


Light Form

The lightest examples are distinctive as they have a unique combination of a black face and pale brown pronotum.

The wing cases are also pale brown with a variable darker central stripe widening out to form a band behind the pronotum.

The legs and antennae are also pale brown.

I have seen examples reported from Scandinavia and continental Europe, but have not seen this form reported from the UK.

It is possible that rather than being a colour form, these may be teneral individuals which have only just hatched and have yet to develop full adult colours.


The individual from Pashford Poors Fen resembled this form except for the pronotum being black, instead of brown. 

Willow Ladybird might have a continuous range of variation from the darkest to the lightest.

More published photos of UK specimens are needed to discover the range of variation in this species, or if instead the majority do actually conform to the typical form.

Variation and Forms

The following are based on internet searches, not on personnel experience.


I named this species Willow Ladybird as it is found on or near willows and poplars in wetland habitats.

It is very elusive and there are few recent records.

Photo by Mark Hows
Streamside willows and bankside vegetation.
Pashford Poors Fen, Suffolk
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