One noticeable feature of inconspicuous ladybirds is site fidelity.
Some species can be very difficult to find, with a lot of suitable habitat searched before they are located. However, once found they may then be reliably found in the same very precise location for several seasons.
Oak Ladybird is a good example. I have beaten many oak branches over the years, but between 2015 and 2017 I only ever saw it on one low hanging branch at Fishers Green, Essex. On this branch I found up to 12 adults at a time, plus one larva, between the months of May-Aug. I refound it again in 2019 still in exactly the same spot, although I also found two more locations nearby.
A reliable site for Oak Ladybird Fishers Green, Essex
Over time I have built up a set of locations for a variety of species.
The result of this is it is easier to go and find certain inconspicuous ladybirds at will than it is to find certain common conspicuous species that I see regularly but lack this site fidelity and are more random background finds e.g. Cream-spot, 10-spot and 2-spot Ladybirds.
10-spot Ladybird An unpredictable species
This habit reminds me of some of the rare butterfly species, for example Small Blue and Heath Fritillary. When looking for these species a large area of good looking habitat can be searched before finding a very small patch of habitat that can support good numbers.
Butterflies have been well researched and we now know a lot about the precise ecological conditions that explains this patchy distribution. We currently do not know the same level of detail for the inconspicuous ladybirds.
Heath Fritillary Rare but can be abundant in a small area
In 2020 I started exploring an area of dry sparse grassland at Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex and found large numbers of 16-spot Ladybirds and a few Meadow Ladybirds, as well as other interesting insects. This area has a fine sandy soil, different to the clay in a lot of my recording area.
Whilst searching the area with Mark Hows, Mark found a Red-rumped Ladybird in a small damp flush on the edge of the site. Due to drought conditions this patch had nearly dried out but the vegetation was clearly different.
Slightly damp flush in area of dry sparse grassland
Fishers Green, Lee Valley, Essex
On returning to the damp flush on subsequent visits I found Red-rumped to be a reliable find. I was also suprised to find several other species of inconspicuous ladybirds, several of which where new to the area.
I have illustrated these below, with the maximum day count for each species.
Red-rumped Ladybird, 9
Meadow Ladybird, 17
Angle-spot Ladybird, 3
Red Marsh Ladybird, 2
Photo by Mark Hows
Unidentified Heath or Dusky Ladybird, 1
Red-patched Ladybird, 1
This is the most extreme concentration of inconspicuous ladybirds that I have seen in a small discrete area of habitat.
Mark noticed the flush as an area worth exploring as it was similar to some of the areas in The Brecks that have proved productive for inconspicuous ladybirds.
Finding and recognising these discrete micro-habitats is one of the main challenges when searching for inconspicuous ladybirds.