Schmidt's Ladybird Scymnus schmidti
Other name: Schmidt's Scymnus
This is an extremely elusive species of mossy grassland often staying close to the ground, making it difficult to find with a sweep net.
The identification criterea are rather complicated.
Identification Length 2.4-2.6mm
The majority of British specimens lack any spots, the females are all dark, whilst the males have a red face and leading edge to the pronotum.
They are therefore similar to Heath and Dusky Ladybirds but can be distinguished by a distinctive feature.
On the underside, the metasternum (between the second and third pair of legs) has a groove running down the centre. This feature is only shared with Angle-spot Ladybird.
Groove along centre of metasternum
I have only seen one, found by Mark Hows at Grime's Graves, Norfolk. Unusually this specimen had two spots, similar to Angle-spot.
Specimens with two spots and even four spots occur on the continent but appear to be rare in Britain.
I have seen a photo of a four spotted British specimen published on the internet
Mark found it with Angle-spot, a species he is experienced with and immediately realised this specimen was different. The small size was the first feature to attract attention.
I travelled up to see the live specimen and had discovered before I set off that an important feature to check was the presence of strong punctures on the wingcases forming disorganised lines, resembling striae.
This feature is visible on Richard Lewington's illustration in The Field Guide 2018 (although it is also visible on the thumbnail of female Heath Ladybird). This feature also occurs on Dusky Ladybird but not on Angle-spot Ladybird which has a much smoother appearance.
This feature is just visible on one of my photos and the difference between the two species is clear in Mark's photo with the Schmidt's above the Angle-spot.
Grime's Graves, Norfolk
Photo by Mark Hows
With Angle-spot Ladybird
I agreed with Mark's identification and we have both ticked this species but it has not been independently verified.
This is a very elusive species, mostly found by professional ecologists.
It occurs in short grassland and is often associated with mossy habitats.
It keeps low down in the vegetation, although it is reported to move up into the open during hot drought conditions, making it easier to locate.
In 2016 Mark Telfer located Schmidt's Ladybird at Winterbourne Downs RSPB, Wilts and South Stack RSPB, Anglesey.