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Dusky Ladybird  Scymnus rubromaculatus

Dusky Ladybird has not been included in any recent field guides but is a well established species in the London area, the Thames Estuary and possibly further afield.

Males of this species are very distinctive, but have a history of being confused with Heath Ladybird, which has slowed down the recording process.

Females are currently very difficult to separate from Heath Ladybird and these two species form a species pair, that require more research to find reliable field identification features.

Identification       Length  1.8-2.3mm

Typical male markings

Male Dusky Ladybirds are shaped like Red-flanked Ladybird.

A black species with orange legs, antennae, face and most of the pronotum. 

The large amount of orange on the pronotum is a distinctive feature and is very different to to male Heath and Schmidt's Ladybirds, which both have a narrow, partly broken orange front edge to the pronotum.

At the back of the pronotum is a dark wedge shape, this is variable in shape but often has a pointed front.

On the wing cases the hairs are strongly whorled, with the hairs at the top and rear strongly angled away from centre line. This is similar to Red-flanked Ladybird.

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Variation in male pronotum pattern

The closest confusion species is actually Oak Ladybird, which in brightly marked males has a similar hair pattern, all orange legs and a large amount of orange on the front of the pronotum.

Oak Ladybird will usually show a distinctive red tip to the rear abdomen and is also a subtly different shape with broad shoulders and a highly domed shape.

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The females (and possibly some males) are all black with brownish legs, antennae and mouthparts.

They are very similar to Heath and Schmidt's Ladybirds. 

Schmidt's Ladybirds have a groove on the prosternal keel, so they can be ruled out.

Heath Ladybird is the main confusion species. 

Habitat and location can be useful clues, but actual field characteristics are very few.

One useful feature that shows up on some photos is the distinctive wave in the hairs on the wing cases. The hairs splay out towards the sides at the top and rear.

Heath Ladybird has the hairs running in an almost straight line towards the wing case tips, with a smaller angled swirl at just the rear. 

More photos of each species will help refine the exact differences in this feature for the two species.

Strong wave in hairs on wing cases
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Upshire, North Essex
Upshire, North Essex
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Photo by Mark Hows
Purfleet, South Essex
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Photo by Mark Hows
Purfleet, South Essex
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Photo by Mark Hows
Purfleet, South Essex
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Photo by Mark Hows
Purfleet, South Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Leg Colour

Some Dusky and Heath Ladybirds can be separated by leg colour, especially the femur colour compared with the rest of the leg.

The femur is the thicker inner section of leg, roughly equivalent to the the thigh.

The next thinner section is the tibia.

Then the last section with the feet and toes is the tarsus.

Heath and Dusky Ladybirds, as well as some other Scymnus species, have brown or orange tibia and tarsus.

Whether described as brown or orange can depend on the lighting conditions, the brightness of the individual specimen or how the observer interprets colour.

Male Dusky Ladybird has all orange femurs; front, middle and back. This pattern can be shown by some Oak Ladybirds but not Heath.

Male Heath Ladybird has the front and middle femurs orange but the back pair black.

Female Heath Ladybird has all black femurs.

Some female Dusky Ladybirds may also have all black femurs, but some show at least a bit of orange on the outer tip, with the most distinctive showing bicoloured femurs with the outer half orange and the inner half black. This pattern is probably diagnostic. 

In 2023 I found an individual showing the classic bicoloured femurs.

       Black and orange femurs
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
                  Bicoloured femurs
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex

My previous records seem to show all black femurs, although some may have a hint of orange at the tips. The quality of the photographs is variable, I have a better camera now than previously.

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Fishers Green, North Essex
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Waltham Abbey, North Essex
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Upshire, North Essex


Two of my records were beaten from Euonymus shrubs, in two different gardens. Both of these two small shrubs also regularly produce Red-flanked and Epaulet 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.

My other two records were swept from rough grassland at Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex.

In 2023 I found another one in my small garden, this time beaten from Ivy in a boundary hedge. This specimen had the diagnostic bicoloured femurs.

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Euonymus.  Waltham Abbey, North Essex
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Euonymus.  Upshire, North Essex
Grassland      Fishers Green, Lee Valley, North Essex
Ivy in garden hedge    Waltham Abbey, North Essex

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, using a mixture of beating and sweeping.


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.

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 

My records, all of females are:

2018  15th July  Waltham Abbey, Essex   Beaten from garden Euonymus shrub

2018  26th July  Upshire, Essex  Beaten from Euonymus shrub

2020  3rd July  Fishers Green, Essex  Swept from grassland

2022  24th August Fishers Green, Essex  Swept from grassland

2023  11th August  Waltham Abbey, Essex  Beaten from Ivy

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.

In 2023 Yvonne Couch took four specimens collected between 2019 and 2023 (three from Rainham and one from Purfleet, Essex) to the Natural History Museum where they were determined as Dusky Ladybird by Roger Booth.

These had previously been identified as Heath Ladybirds, but Maria Justamond queried the identification based on a photo of one specimen published on the internet (an underside shot showing bicoloured femurs).

Roger helpfully explained some of the differences between Dusky and Heath Ladybirds, which have helped me update the details on this website. 

Additional Photographs
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
Waltham Abbey, North Essex
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