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.

Identification       Length  2.4-2.6mm

Schmidt's Ladybird is similar to Heath and Dusky Ladybirds.

A mostly black species with reddish legs and some red on the face. 

Males have a fully red face and leading edge to the pronotum (the area between the head and wing cases).

Females have a mostly black face and black pronotum.

It is possible that some males also have an all black form, which would explain the relative scarcity of red fronted specimens.

The shape is a longish oval, similar to Angle-spot (Heath and Dusky are a rounder short oval shape).

The diagnostic feature is seen on the underside. The metasternum (between the second and third pair of legs) has a groove along the centre line. This is not present on Heath or Dusky Ladybirds.

A supporting feature is the presence of lines of punctures along the wing cases 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).

Male
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Typical male markings

In 2022 I found my first male of this species, swept from grassland at Ramparts Field, Suffolk.

A largish dark Scymnus species, I first thought I had found a Heath Ladybird but once I checked my photographs later I was able to use a series of features to confirm it as Schmidt's.

A black species with red legs, face and front of pronotum.

The red on the front of the pronotum was narrow and did not reach to the back corners.

I was surprised by the long tapering shape which reminded me of Angle-spot.

Two features not apparent in the field, but confirmed checking photos on my laptop, were the groove along the centre of the metasternum and the presence of erratic lines of punctures on the wing cases. These were not apparent on all the photos and depended on the angle of the light.

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Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk
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Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk
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Orange front hardly visible from behind
Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk

The groove on the metasternum was obvious on some photos but less so on others.

The angle of lighting affects how well this feature shows up on photos.

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Clear image of metasternal groove
Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk
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Groove only just visible
Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk

On some of the photos it is possible to see short wavy lines of larger sized punctures.

This is a distinctive feature but not visible in the field without some form of magnification, either a hand lens or macro photographs on a large screen.

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Lines of punctures visible on front centre of right hand side wing case.
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Faint long wavy line of punctures just visible on centre of left hand side wing case
Female

In August 2020 Mark Hows found a female Schmidt's Ladybird at Icklingham Common, Suffolk.

Swept from very short mossy grassland.

It was all black with red legs, face and antennae. 

The combination of lines of punctures on the wing cases and the groove along the metasternum confirmed the identification.

Mark was initially unsure if it really was a Scymus species as the wing cases were unusually shiny. Black and Bordered Ladybirds are often reported to have a metallic sheen but it is not clear if this is a feature of Schmidt's Ladybird or just this individual.

The short clubbed antennae were the best way to confirm it was a ladybird, rather than some 

look alike beetle species.

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Photo by Mark Hows
Showing lines of punctures on wing cases Icklingham Common, The Brecks, Suffolk
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Photo by Mark Hows
Showing groove along centre of metasternum Icklingham Common, The Brecks, Suffolk
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Photo by Mark Hows
Icklingham Common, Suffolk
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Photo by Mark Hows
Showing metallic sheen to the wing cases Icklingham Common, The Brecks, Suffolk
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Photo by Mark Hows
Typical Scymnus antennae shape and length
Icklingham Common, The Brecks, Suffolk
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Photo by Mark Hows
Small amount of red on face and red legs Icklingham Common, The Brecks, Suffolk
Spotted Individuals

On mainland Europe Schmidt's Ladybird can show two or four red spots on the wing cases.

The presence of red-spotted Schmidt's Ladybird in the UK is controversial.

I have seen a photo of a UK Schmidt's Ladybird with four red spots published on the internet, although this photo has since vanished.

In August 2019 Mark Hows was searching for Schmidt's Ladybird at Grimes Graves, Norfolk, a known location for this species. Mark had found several Angle-spot Ladybirds, when he swept a different looking individual. This specimen had two red spots similar to Angle-spot but immediately attracted attention due to its small size.

I travelled to see the live specimen and together we were able to ascertain that the different look of this individual was due to the texture of the wing cases.

With the naked eye and under low magnification Angle-spot Ladybirds show a smooth texture to the wing cases.

This individual had a coarser texture to the wing cases which included the presence of disorganised lines of punctures.

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Uneven line of punctures visible in red spot Grime's Graves, The Brecks, West Norfolk
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Photo by Mark Hows
With Angle-spot Ladybird
Grimes Graves, The Brecks, West Norfolk

This individual had a groove along the centre of the metasternum but this did not help with the identification process as this feature is shared with Angle-spot Ladybird

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Groove on metasternum
Grimes Graves, The Brecks, West Norfolk

We both concluded that this was an example of a Schmidt's Ladybird of the two spotted form but the record has not been independently verified.

Habitat

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.

Grime's Graves is an archaeological site containing Neolithic flint mines in Norfolk. The area consists of short chalk grassland with a series of pits and mounds formed by the flint mines. Moss grows in the slightly damper bases of the hollow depressions and it is this that forms the main habitat of Schmidt's Ladybird

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Photo by Mark Hows
Short grass with mossy areas.
Grime's Graves, The Brecks, West Norfolk

Icklingham Common in Suffolk is a similar habitat, an area of sparse chalk grassland with moss growing in a series of depressions.

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Icklingham Common, The Brecks, West Suffolk
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Icklingham Common, The Brecks, West Suffolk

In 2022 I found a male Schmidt's Ladybird at Ramparts Field, Suffolk.

I swept it from an area of long grass with some shorter areas of mossy grass. This was during an prolonged drought and just after a period of extreme heat.

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Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk

In 2016 Mark Telfer reported Schmidt's Ladybird at Winterbourne Downs RSPB, Wilts and South Stack RSPB, Anglesey.

Additional Photographs

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Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk
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Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk
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Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk
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Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk
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Ramparts Field, The Brecks, West Suffolk