Dusky Ladybird  Scymnus rubromaculatus

This species was not included in Roy and Brown (2018), but has been established in the London area for a while now. It has only been found by a few coleopterists, several of whom work as professional ecologists.

 In 2018 I found two all dark inconspicuous ladybirds in Euonymus shrubs, one in Waltham Abbey, Essex on 15th July and one in Upshire, Essex on 26th July.

Using my knowledge at the time, I identified both as Heath Ladybird. However, I became uneasy with this identification, as they were in a habitat associated with the adventive or recently established species. As they looked very like Red-flanked Ladybird, I wondered if these could ever be all dark.

I also wondered if they might be Dusky Ladybirds, but my knowledge of this species was confined to the two dots present in the NBN Atlas.

In August 2019 I obtained a copy of Mark Telfer's 2015 article in The Coleopterist, (see References in Introduction section), where he outlined how Dusky Ladybird is now widespread in the London area. He also commented on how Dusky Ladybird resembles an all dark Red-flanked Ladybird.

I have counted my two records as Dusky Ladybird for my own purposes, but they are not provable and I have not submitted them.

The following list of records is taken from Telfer (2015):

2000  20th July  Stratford, London  several swept from dry canal side vegetation  Dan S. Hackett

2006  31st Aug  Sheppey, E. Kent  one male, three females  On low hawthorn shrub, with ivy and bramble  Norman Head

 

2010  Battersea Wharf, Surrey  Jonty Denton

 

2013  24th May  Gallion's Reach, S. Essex  Jonty Denton

 

2013  7th Aug  Silvertown Quays, Newham, S. Essex  one male, two females  found by tapping mugwort  Mark Telfer

 

2013-2014  survey work on a green roof  Greenwich, W.Kent  produced a total of 13 males and eleven females, alongside 69 Red-flanked Ladybirds  Mark Telfer

 

2014  Bampton Cemetery, Oxfordshire  beaten from cypress tree  Jonty Denton 

Identification       Length  1.8-2.3mm

This species is shaped like Red-flanked Ladybird, but the pattern overlaps with Heath and Schmidt's Ladybird.

Schmidt's can be ruled out as it has a groove along the centre line of the metasternum.

Dusky and Heath are both sexually dimorphic, males have a red face and front edge of the pronotum, whilst females have a black face. Both species lack a groove along the centre of the metasternum.

On males the orangy-red colour on the pronotum, (section behind the head), is more extensive than the similar species. On many specimens the red covers most of the pronotum, with a small patch of black, either a triangle or semi-circle, at the rear. This feature, combined with habitat clues, should make many males identifiable in the field, at least once it is generally accepted that this species is more common than records currently suggest.

Females of Dusky Ladybird may not currently be identifiable using external features only as they are very similar to Heath Ladybird. My own records are based on habitat and instinct, they have not been verified.

Waltham Abbey, Essex
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Upshire, Essex
Upshire, Essex

In August 2020 Mark Hows found a tickable ( though unverified ) individual at Purfleet, Essex. As with my records this was a female. This one was beaten from Buddleja along the Thames riverbank walkway, in an urban setting.

The habitat and area are right for Dusky Ladybird but unlikely for Heath Ladybird. Also the shape is very similar to Red-flanked Ladybird which is a supporting feature for Dusky Ladybird.

Photo by Mark Hows
Purfleet, Essex
Photo by Mark Hows
Purfleet, Essex
Photo by Mark Hows
Purfleet, Essex
Photo by Mark Hows
Purfleet, Essex

Habitat

Both of my putative records were beaten from Euonymus shrubs, in two different gardens. Both of these two small shrubs also regularly produce Red-flanked and Round-keeled Ladybird records. These are two common  adventive or recently established species and are likely to overlap with Dusky Ladybird.

In contrast Heath Ladybird is a native species of semi-natural habitats including grassland and heathland.

Euonymus.  Waltham Abbey, Essex
Euonymus.  Upshire, Essex

The Purfleet individual was beaten from Buddleja in an urban setting.

The best plan for finding Dusky Ladybird would be to search low vegetation and shrubs on brown field sites in East London and the Thames Estuary area.

Copyright Andrew Jewels 2019-2020