Larch Ladybird Aphidecta obliterata
The Larch Ladybird is a rather small ladybird 3.5 to 5 mm in length. It comes in two varieties: brown or black. The brown ones are readily identified: on the white neck shield is a brownish "M". Some other species may be the same kind of brown when not fully coloured, but they all lack the "M". The black ones are very difficult to identify, but usually the neck shield helps as well: it is all black whithout any other colour or marking.
Both larvae and adults appear all year round. They overwinter behind loose bark, but do become active again in March. Generally seen from March to November. Larvae and adults feed on aphids. They prefer woolly aphids, but also feed on ordinary aphids and scale insects. They are however limited to firs and other conifers. This means they are common in fir woods, but also parks and gardens inhabited by firs.
The Larch Ladybird is a common species all over Europe, including most of the UK, as long as conifers are present.
Around 1900 the Balsam woolly adelgid was introduced from Europe into the USA. With devasting effects. The Balsam Fir, the popular christmas tree, was heavily infested and its cousin the Fraser fir was reduced by over 80% and now is an endangered species. Some natural enemies of the Balsam woolly adelgid were introduced, including the Larch Ladybird, to minimize the effect of the infests by the aphids.