Finland’s National Insect

The seven-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) was chosen as Finland’s National Insect in 1996.

This same species is also the Official State Insect of Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Tennessee, in the United States.

Within C. septempunctata‘s scientific name, the Latin term ‘septem‘ means seven, and ‘punctus‘ means spot

Seven-spot ladybirds are the most common of the ladybirds found in Britain. They can be found from March to October, often on vegetation in parks, woods, gardens, and urban areas. Basically, anywhere where aphids can also be found, as they are this ladybird’s favourite food.

During the winter, these ladybirds overwinter in habitats that provide shelter from the outside elements, such as in houses and outbuildings, or even in ground litter, and under tree bark and rocks.

Adult C. septempunctata are easily recognised with their red-orange wing cases (elytra), with seven black spots arranged in a symmetrical pattern. They also have a black thorax (body), black head, and white markings and spots on either side of their eyes. These ladybirds tend to be about 6-8 mm in length.

Seven-spot ladybirds are so brightly coloured as a warning symbol to predators, warning them that the ladybirds taste horrible. Despite this, some birds may still try eating them. As well as this, these ladybirds release a pungent, yellow substance from their joints when handled. This is a form of ‘controlled bleeding’ which can stain hands, and also gives them a foul taste.

Like caterpillars and butterflies, seven-spot ladybirds (and many other ladybird species) have a designated life cycle, composing of four stages; egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The eggs usually hatch within 2-10 days, depending on the temperature. The larval stage lasts for about a month, whilst the pupa stage takes about 1-2 weeks.

Within the larval stage, the larvae feed on mainly aphids until they are ready to pupate. The late-stage larvae are dark grey-black with a blueish tinge. They also have dark orange spots on the sides of the first and forth abdominal segments.

Seven-spot ladybird pupae are usually pale orange with two rows of black triangular markings running down the middle. Within this pupa, the larva is completely broken down before the adult forms.

The name ‘ladybird’ comes from Christianity, where the ‘lady’ refers to the ‘Virgin Mary’, and the red colour is her cloak. The seven spots also represent her seven joys and seven sorrows.

As stated previously, the adults and larvae love to eat aphids, and other soft-bodied insects. This can make them a favourite for gardeners, where aphids are considered garden pests. It is estimated that seven-spot ladybirds can eat up to 5,000 aphids during its year-long life. However, when food becomes scarce, the adults will feed on pollen, and larvae can become cannibalistic.

In the UK, the arrival of the non-native harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) in 2004 has sparked a fear on whether the seven-spot ladybird is being outcompeted for food by this new arrival. It is suggested that H. axyridis arrived in the UK accidentally due to strong winds.

Resources:

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/invertebrates/beetles/7-spot-ladybird

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/beetles/7-spot-ladybird/

https://www.nhsn.org.uk/species/7-spot-ladybird/

https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/51702-Coccinella-septempunctata

https://peecnature.org/ladybug-life-cycle/